- Associated Press - Thursday, August 8, 2019

BERLIN (AP) - A former senior German diplomat who was due to head a body designed to facilitate European trade with Iran has pulled out of the job after reports he defended Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed a report Thursday by daily Bild that Bernd Erbel had informed officials “that he won’t be available for personal reasons” to head the organization, called INSTEX.

Bild reported that Erbel, a former ambassador to Tehran, had given interviews to a German-language YouTube channel in which he described Iran’s missile program as legal.

INSTEX was created by Germany, France and Britain to coordinate import and export payments so European companies can do business with Iran despite U.S. pressure, and thereby convince Tehran to stick to a 2015 deal that limits its nuclear efforts.

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