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‘Aggressive’ Iran worries Merkel


AMMAN, June 21, (Agencies): German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said European countries shared concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile programme and called for solutions to its “aggressive tendencies” in the Middle East. “Iran’s aggressive tendencies must not only be discussed, but rather we need solutions urgently,” she said after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman.

She announced 384 million euros ($445 million) of aid to Jordan this year. Germany has remained party to the Iran nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbing its atomic programme, after US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in May.

Merkel said on Thursday that while European countries wanted to maintain the 2015 accord, they shared concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its presence in Syria and its role in the war in Yemen. In Syria, Iran is a big military supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, sending some of its own forces there and backing Shi’ite militias from Lebanon and Iraq who are fighting on the ground.

Gulf and Western countries accuse Tehran of arming the Houthi group in Yemen, which it denies. She also voiced support for Jordanian concern about Iranian activity in southwestern Syria, near its border and that of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where Tehran’s ally Damascus is ramping up a military operation. “You live not just with the Syria confl ict, but also we see Iran’s activities with regard to Israel’s security and with regard to Jordan’s border,” she said. Merkel said earlier this month after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the question of Iran’s regional infl uence was “worrying, especially for Israel’s security”.

Abdullah, who met Netanyahu on Monday and Trump’s son-in-law and regional envoy Jared Kushner on Tuesday, said there could be no peace in the Middle East without a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The United States is preparing a new peace plan, which has not yet been made public, but has already angered Palestinians by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Abdullah this month appointed a new prime minister after the country’s biggest protests in years over taxes and price increases pushed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Merkel said reforms should be balanced and “not hit the wrong people”.

In addition to the 384 million euros in aid for Jordan, Germany is also providing it with a $100 million credit line to help it cope with the requirements of the IMF reforms, Merkel said. Iran has announced a list of 15 demands for improving relations with the United States, including a US return to the 2015 nuclear accord, in response to a similar list of demands made by Washington last month. In an article in a state-owned newspaper Thursday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the US to stop providing arms to the “invaders of Yemen,” referring to Saudi Arabia, and to drop its opposition to the nuclear disarmament of Israel. The article came in response to demands laid out in May by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called for a wholesale change in Iran’s military and regional policies, threatening the “strongest sanctions in history” if it refused. The US withdrew from the landmark nuclear agreement with world powers earlier that month.

US pressure
The Iranian people will not give in to US pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, as the Islamic Republic faces the reimposition of economic sanctions by Washington. “The Iranian people will never surrender in the face of the plots and pressure of the American government,” Rouhani said, according to state media.

Rouhani won reelection last year largely on a promise that the economy would improve because of a landmark agreement with major powers under which some sanctions were lifted in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal threatens to fatally undermine the accord, and the remaining signatories – Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – are scrambling to preserve it. The US move has made the pragmatic Rouhani vulnerable to criticism from hardliners who have long opposed any rapprochement with Western governments or companies.

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