Trump and Macron discuss new Iran agreement

US president says Tehran ‘will pay a price like few others have paid’ if it ‘threatens us’

US president Donald Trump has spoken off his "special relationship" with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, even pretending to clean "dandruff" off of Macron's shoulder. Video: The White House

 

US president Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron pledged on Tuesday to try to resolve US-European differences on Iran, but Trump gave no clear signal about whether he would carry out a threat to abandon an international nuclear deal with Tehran.

After lengthy talks at the White House, Macron told a joint news conference with Trump that the two had discussed “a new deal” that would strengthen the 2015 Iran accord along Trump’s lines, such as by addressing Iran’s expansion in the Middle East and its ballistic missile programme.

But with a deadline on the US’s decision on whether to remain in the deal looming next month, it was unclear whether the two allies made substantial progress on the future of the agreement, which the West sees as vital to preventing Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

Trump continued his hostile rhetoric toward the nuclear deal, calling it terrible, ridiculous and insane and threatening Iran with repercussions should it restart its nuclear programme.

“If Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid,” Trump said.

Trump has until May 12th to decide whether to keep the US in the agreement and is under strong European pressure to remain in it, with Macron saying that, while imperfect, it holds the best chance of containing Tehran.

The two leaders also discussed Syria, with Macron urging Trump to keep US forces there for the time being as a bulwark against Iran and to ensure the defeat of Islamic State militants.

Trump did not promise to leave the troops in Syria, but made clear they would not be withdrawn imminently.

“We want to come home. We’ll be coming home. But we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint,” Trump said.

Iran threat

Iran has said it will ramp up its nuclear programme if the deal collapses and a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday that Tehran might quit a treaty designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons if Trump scraps the agreement.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions in return for relief from economic sanctions.

US president Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
US president Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Trump said he and Macron could have an agreement soon on the Iran deal. “We could have at least an agreement among ourselves very quickly. I think we’re fairly close to understanding each other.”

Trump said the Iran agreement, struck between Iran and world powers, was a “terrible deal” that was “insane” and “ridiculous” because it did not deal with ballistic missiles or Iran’s involvement in conflicts such as those in Yemen and Syria.

A US withdrawal from the Iran agreement would raise tensions in an already volatile Middle East, possibly prompting an arms race involving Saudi Arabia. Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed only at peaceful purposes.

Pulling out of the Iran agreement would also raise questions over how Trump could coerce North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons.

Trump is trying to arrange a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late May or early June. – Reuters