Trump keeps Iran nuclear deal alive, but warns 'last chance' to fix it
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US President Donald Trump said on Friday he would waive nuclear sanctions against Iran for the last time to give Washington and its European allies a chance to fix the "terrible flaws" of the 2015 nuclear deal.
"This is a last chance," Trump said in a statement. "In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal."
He added: "And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately."
While Trump approved a sanctions waiver, the Treasury Department decided to impose new, targeted sanctions against 14 Iranian entities and individuals.
A decision to withhold a waiver would have effectively ended the deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 agreement between the United States and Iran also was signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union, and these countries would have been unlikely to join the United States in reimposing sanctions.
Two senior Trump administration officials told Reuters on Wednesday that the president, a Republican, had privately expressed reluctance to heed the advice of top advisers recommending he not reimpose the suspended sanctions.
Trump has argued that Obama, a Democrat, negotiated a bad deal for the United States in agreeing to the nuclear accord.
Hailed by Obama as key to stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb, the deal lifted economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program.
Pressure from Europe
Trump had come under heavy pressure from European allies to issue the sanctions waiver.
Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. It has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other signatories respect it but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.
The US Congress requires the president to decide periodically whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal and issue a waiver to allow US sanctions to remain suspended.
Trump in October chose not to certify compliance and warned he might ultimately terminate the accord. He accused Iran of “not living up to the spirit” of the agreement even though the International Atomic Energy Agency says Tehran is complying.
Hardliners on Iran in the US Congress have called for the reimposition of the suspended sanctions and an end to the nuclear deal, while some liberal Democrats want to pass legislation that would make it harder for Trump to pull Washington out without congressional consent.
Trump and his top advisers have been negotiating with US lawmakers on Capitol Hill to try to change sanctions legislation so that he does not face a deadline on whether to recertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker has been working on amending a US law to include “trigger points” that if crossed by Iran would automatically bring back US sanctions.
Britain, France and Germany called on Trump on Thursday to uphold the pact.
On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the "necessary respect by all parties" of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, in a telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
However, Israel's leader, a fierce critic of the deal, told Macron that changing the nuclear deal would increase the chances of it remaining in place.
"Trump's remarks should be taken seriously, and whoever wants to keep the nuclear deal would be wise to fix it", a statement from Netanyahu's office read.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)