Rouhani tells Macron Iran nuke deal is ‘not negotiable’
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Rouhani tells Macron Iran nuke deal is ‘not negotiable’

Tehran ‘will not accept any restrictions beyond its commitments,’ Iranian president says, as Trump deadline for changing pact looms

France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Ludovic Marin)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Ludovic Marin)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the nuclear deal his country reached with international powers was “not negotiable.”

“The nuclear deal or any other subject under its pretext is not negotiable in any way,” Rouhani told Macron in a telephone call quoted by the website of the Iranian presidency.

“Iran will not accept any restrictions beyond its commitments,” he said.

A readout from the Elysee Palace said Macron had told Rouhani that while he supports preserving the deal, the accord’s “sunset” clauses must be addressed, as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and involvement in regional crises.

Macron’s phone call with Rouhani came after he, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated their commitment to the nuclear deal “as the best way of neutralizing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran,” the UK prime minister’s office said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, Britain Prime Minister Theresa May, center, and French President Emmanuel Macron talk, as they arrive in Brussels, on October 19, 2017. (AFP/John Thys)

May spoke by phone with Macron and Merkel on Saturday and Sunday, when they agreed the current deal also left out some “important elements,” it said.

“Our priority as an international community remained preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” it said.

“They agreed that there were important elements that the deal does not cover, but which we need to address –- including ballistic missiles, what happens when the deal expires, and Iran’s destabilizing regional activity.

“They committed to continue working closely together and with the US on how to tackle the range of challenges that Iran poses –- including those issues that a new deal might cover.”

Both Macron and Merkel held talks in Washington this week with US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to quit the 2015 pact with Iran that was negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The pair tried to sell Trump on the idea of the deal being a stepping stone to a longer-term, broader agreement, pitching a “four pillars” solution.

The first column is Iran’s nuclear program under the current accord.

The others would target the country’s nuclear activities after 2025, when so-called sunset clauses kick in, beef up global leverage against its regional influence, and curtail its ballistic missile program.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday that Trump had not yet decided whether to scrap the pact.

“He has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out,” he told Fox News.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Total Sports Park in Washington, Michigan, on April 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Bolton’s comments came as new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, where he said Trump would exit the accord if the US administration “can’t fix it.”

“President Trump’s been pretty clear: This deal is very flawed. He’s directed the administration to try and fix it, and if we can’t fix it, he’s going to withdraw from the deal,” said Pompeo at a joint press conference.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) holds a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2018. (Yariv Katz/Pool/Flash90)

Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the nuclear pact, said the deal has only emboldened Iran’s regional “aggression.”

“If people thought that Iran’s aggression would be moderated as a result of signing the deal, the opposite has happened,” he said.

Trump is due to decide by May 12 whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril the landmark 2015 accord, which most world powers see as key to preventing Tehran from getting the bomb.

But Trump and America’s Middle East allies argue that the deal was too weak and must be replaced with a more permanent arrangement, and supplemented by controls on Iran’s missile program.

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