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Macron To Defend Iran Nuclear Deal During U.S. Visit


French President Emmanuel Macron (left) talks to U.S. President Donald Trump while attending the traditional military parade as part of the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on July 14, 2017.

Disagreements over the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers are expected to be an important part of French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit to the United States this week.

Macron arrived in Washington on April 23 for the three-day trip as U.S. President Donald Trump has set a May 12 deadline to either improve or scrap the deal providing Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its atomic program.

The other powers in the deal -- Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia -- have urged Washington to remain in the pact, saying it is the best way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

In an interview broadcast on April 23, Macron said there was no "Plan B" for keeping a lid on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"Let's present this framework because it's better than the sort of North Korean-type situation," Macron told Fox News.

He also said that that he wanted to "complete" the nuclear accord by addressing Iran's ballistic-missile program -- a key Trump demand -- and working to contain Iran's influence in the region.

The U.S. president has said that Iran is violating the "spirit" of the nuclear agreement -- which was negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama -- by continuing to test ballistic missiles, sponsoring militant violence in the region, and by supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Trump has called on European powers to "fix" what he says are the "terrible flaws" of the deal, and demanded that new restrictions to be imposed on Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

Addressing a nonproliferation conference in Geneva, U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford said on April 23 that the Iranian nuclear program remained "dangerously close to rapid weaponization."

Iran has for years “illegally and secretly sought to develop nuclear weapons, suspended its weaponization work only when confronted by the potentially direst of consequences without ever coming clean about its illicit endeavors," he added.

Tehran has always claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It has also said it would stick to the accord as long as the other parties respected it.

Ahead of Macron's visit, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 23 called on European leaders to "encourage President Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more importantly to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith."

"President Macron is correct in saying there's no 'Plan B'," he also wrote on Twitter. "It's either all or nothing."

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations in Toronto, Canada, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on April 23 that Chancellor Angela Merkel will also urge Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal when she travels to Washington later this week.

"We believe it is extremely important to uphold this agreement. Were it to fail or the U.S. to drop out, we would not have anything comparable to it and we fear that the situation would significantly deteriorate with everything that goes with it," the minister said.

Also speaking to reporters in Toronto, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said there was "a strong view around the table that we need to make the case" for the nuclear deal.

"We accept that Iranian behavior has been disruptive in the region, we accept the U.S. president has some valid points that need to be addressed but we believe they are capable of being addressed" inside the agreement, he said.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on April 23 that there was "no alternative" to the nuclear deal with Iran and that the agreement should be "honored by all parties."

And during a visit to Beijing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, agreed to "obstruct attempts to sabotage" the nuclear accord with Iran.

Macron also wants to persuade Trump to exempt European states from metal tariffs that are part of the U.S. president's plan to reduce the country's trade deficit.

Last month, Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum, but granted the EU a temporary exemption until May 1.

Macron and Trump are also expected to discuss Syria, less than two weeks after the United States, France, and Britain launched air strikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical-weapons attack that killed dozens in the town of Douma, near Damascus.

Speaking on Fox News, the French president called on his U.S. counterpart not to pull troops out of Syria after the final defeat of the extremist group Islamic State, saying that would "leave the floor" to Iran and the Syrian president.

Macron's visit is the first time Trump has hosted a state visit since he took power in January 2017.

On April 23, the two are to share a private dinner at Mount Vernon in Virginia, the home of George Washington, the first president of the United States.

Working meetings will be held on April 24 before a state dinner is held at the White House. Macron will address Congress the following day.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, TASS, Interfax, and AFP
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