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French president will try to persuade Trump to remain in Iran deal, reconsider Paris climate exit

By Anne Gearan

September 18, 2017 at 10:45 AM

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President Trump met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sept. 18. During the brief photo-op, Trump declined to discuss what issues were on the agenda for their meeting. (Reuters)

France's top diplomat warned against withdrawal from global engagement "out of fear or selfishness" and said French President Emmanuel Macron will try to persuade President Trump to remain a party to the international nuclear deal with Iran when the two leaders meet later Monday.

France will also renew the case for Trump to reconsider his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

"There is a worrying degradation of the world environment," Le Drian said, referring to a host of conflicts and terrorism, but also by implication to the rise of the kind of populism or nationalism that helped elect Trump. "Despite globalization, cooperation has become less easy," Le Drian said through an interpreter.

Without mentioning Trump by name during his opening remarks, Le Drian lamented an "increasing breakdown of international cooperation" and "withdrawal out of fear or selfishness."

When asked about the U.S. leader and Macron's meeting with him, Le Drian said France will stress the value of the Iran deal for nuclear nonproliferation and international security. He suggested that France may be open to an extension of nuclear limits on Iran past 2025, one of the main demands of critics of the deal.

"I'll try to convince President Trump," that the deal can be rigorously enforced now, Le Drian said. Even if a follow-on deal or other changes are contemplated, "we need to acknowledge the validity of the agreement as it is."

Related: [U.S. and Iran accuse one another of backsliding on nuclear deal]

If Trump moves to pull away from the deal by failing to certify to Congress that Iran is complying, other parties to the deal will carry on, Le Drian said.

"Today there is nothing to allow us to believe it will not be implemented. It's essential," he said.

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President Trump said that Iran is not in compliance with the nuclear deal while speaking in Bedminster N.J. on Aug. 10. (The Washington Post)

The Trump administration has twice certified to Congress that Iran was meeting its end of the landmark 2015 bargain that freezes elements of its nuclear development program that could lead to a bomb in return for the lifting of most international sanctions.

Trump has recently said he does not expect to make the same determination at the next deadline, on Oct. 15, but other U.S. officials have said the decision is not set. A statement that Iran is not complying would set off a congressional review of whether to reimpose some U.S. sanctions, which could sunder the deal.

Earlier Monday, the U.S. administration warned that Washington could leave the deal if it finds that the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has not been rigorous enough in enforcing it.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry read the warning at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Trump, in the message read by Perry, suggested that the United States's continued participation in the deal could depend on International Atomic Energy Agency access to Iranian military sites that Iran has declared off-limits.

"We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal," the Associated Press quoted Perry as saying.

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Iran could abandon its nuclear agreement with world powers "within hours" if the United States imposes any more new sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Aug. 15. (Reuters)

Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi urged the agency and its head, Yukiya Amano, to "resist such unacceptable demands," and said the deal is in danger not from Iranian compliance but from "the American administration's hostile attitude," the AP reported.

The IAEA has said Iran is complying.

Related: [McMaster says no redo on Paris climate deal]

Macron's meeting with Trump comes one day after administration officials failed to clear up confusion over whether Trump may be looking for ways to remain engaged in the Paris climate accord, a nonbinding but historic agreement to limit global carbon emissions.

White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster had said Sunday that the decision to leave the pact was final, although Trump remains open to the potential for a different deal. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump might reconsider if the terms of the Paris climate deal were changed now. That is unlikely.

Le Drian said Macron will stress the universal threat of climate change.

"We consider that this agreement needs to be implemented, and it will be," Le Drian said. "We have heard the declarations made by President Trump and his intention not to respect the agreement, and we can only hope to convince him in the long run."

Trump said in June that he would begin the three-year process of exiting the compact, which he called unfair to the United States.


Anne Gearan is a national politics correspondent for The Washington Post.

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