- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have discussed preserving the Iranian nuclear deal despite President Trump’s decision earlier this month to scrap the agreement and reimpose sanctions.

Mr. Macron is on a two-day official visit to Russia which included attending the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday and talks with Mr. Putin on Thursday.

“Our position, the position of Russia, is well known … we believe the deal must be preserved,” Mr. Putin told reporters after Thursday’s talks according to the Russian state new service Tass.

Mr. Macron reiterated that France and other European nations remain committed to preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA as the deal is formally known — and have also prioritized protecting European firms now conducting business in Iran from reimposed U.S. sanctions.

But the French president added, the deal needed to be amended to address Iran’s nuclear program after 2025, as well as the Islamic Republic’s missile program and its regional activities — issues the Trump administrate cited for leaving the accord. Mr. Macron said he has already started discussing those matters with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Meanwhile in Vienna on Friday, the remaining parties to the landmark deal — Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union — gathered for the first time without the U.S. present.

All those nations have vowed to stay in the JCPOA, which limits Iran’s enrichment and stockpiling of material that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program. In exchange, Tehran was granted widespread relief from international trade, oil and banking sanctions.

At the Vienna meeting, Iranian officials announced they could decide whether or not to remain in the crumbling deal by the end of May and pushed European officials to compensate for Mr. Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions, a senior Iranian official said Friday. Tehran’s aim, according to reports, was to see whether Europe can propose concrete ways to protect private investment in Iran.

“We have not decided yet to stay in the deal,” said the Iranian official, who briefed a small group of reporters under ground rules of anonymity, according to The Associated Press.

The official added that in theory the deal can survive without the U.S., but acknowledged “in practice I’m not sure”.

He also told reporters that hard-line political factions in Tehran always opposed to the deal were now pushing to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that forbids the development of nuclear weapons.

Early this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the negotiation of an entirely new accord that would go far beyond the single focus of the JCPOA — a suggestion Iran flatly rejects.

Mr. Pompeo also vowed that the U.S. would “crush” Iran’s economy and its operatives and proxy armies unless it changes its behavior in the Middle East.

• This article is based in parts on wire service reports.

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