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Iran could stay in deal on guarantees – ‘New sanctions won’t stifle oil’

ANKARA, May 7, (Agencies): President Hassan Rouhani hinted on Monday that Iran could remain in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers even if the United States dropped out but Tehran would fiercely resist US pressure to limit its influence in the Middle East. US President Donald Trump, a long-time critic of the deal reached between Iran and six powers in 2015 before he took office, has threatened to pull out by not extending sanctions waivers when they expire on May 12, unless European signatories of the accord fix what he calls its “flaws”.

Under the agreement with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, Iran strictly limited uranium enrichment capacity to satisfy the powers that it could not be used to develop atomic bombs. In exchange, Iran received relief from sanctions, most of which were rescinded in January 2016. Rouhani said the Islamic Republic had been preparing for every possible scenario, including a deal without Washington — which would still include the other signatories that remain committed to it — or no deal at all. “We are not worried about America’s cruel decisions … We are prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

“If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories … In that case, getting rid of America’s mischievous presence will be fine for Iran.” “If they want to make sure that we are not after a nuclear bomb, we have said repeatedly that we are not and we will not be,” said Rouhani, who engineered the nuclear accord to ease Iran’s isolation “But if they want to weaken Iran and limit its influence whether in the region or globally, Iran will fiercely resist.” Tehran has made repeated threats to walk away if Trump does, but several Iranian officials told Reuters last week that as long as Tehran was not excluded from the global financial and trading system, it could consider respecting the accord.

Diplomats say Tehran would rather the deal remain intact out of concern about a revival of domestic unrest over economic hardships that mounted over the years sanctions were in place. Britain, France and Germany remain committed to the accord and, in an effort to address US complaints, want to open talks on Iran’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 — when pivotal provisions of the deal expire — and its role in the wars in Syria and Yemen. Whatever Trump decides, France, Britain and Germany will stick to the deal because it is the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb, French Foreign Minister Yean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday after meeting his German counterpart.

Last-ditch appeal
Britain, France and Germany made a last-ditch appeal on Monday (May 7) to Trump not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal as a key deadline approaches, warning that scrapping it would spark an “escalation”. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that the accord’s collapse could spark “an escalation” in the region and stressed that Washington’s key European allies remain convinced saving it “makes the world a safer place”. His French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, on a Berlin visit, said that the agreement is “the right way to stop Iran from getting access to nuclear weapons” and “will save us from nuclear proliferation”.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who was visiting Washington on Monday, cautioned that “at this delicate juncture, it would be a mistake to walk away from the nuclear agreement and remove the restraints that it places on Iran”. “Now that these handcuffs are in place, I see no possible advantage in casting them aside,” Johnson wrote in The New York Times. He argued that “every available alternative is worse”, adding that “the wisest course would be to improve the handcuffs rather than break them”.

Under the landmark nuclear pact, also signed by Russia and China, Iran pledged not to build a nuclear bomb in return for relief from international sanctions. Trump has consistently complained about the agreement, reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, citing perceived flaws including “sunset” provisions lifting some nuclear restrictions from 2025. In an attempt to salvage the deal, French President Emmanuel Macron has pushed to extend its scope to address this issue, as well as Iran’s missile capabilities and its role in the region. Israel has also pushed to have the accord ditched, arguing that intelligence documents it recently unveiled showed that Iran had had a secret atomic weapons programme which it could re-activate at any time.

Britain, France and other signatories have said those arguments only strengthened the case for the deal, which has safeguards in place designed to keep Iran from pursuing atomic weapons. Johnson was Monday to start a two-day visit to Washington, with the nuclear deal top of the agenda, the Foreign Office said.

He was due to meet US Vice-President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Congressional foreign policy leaders. He said in his article that Britain, the US and Europe were “united in our effort to tackle the kind of Iranian behaviour that makes the Middle East region less secure — its cyber activities, its support for groups like Hezbollah, and its dangerous missile programme”. Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, via the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah in Syria’s civil war, and its backing for Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen have added to frictions between Tehran and Western powers.

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