Macron Tells Congress: U.S. Shouldn't Abandon Iran Nuclear Deal Without New Accord

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French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to address a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, April 25, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to address a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, April 25, 2018.Credit: \ BRIAN SNYDER/ REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called on the United States not to abandon a nuclear agreement with Iran until a broader international accord is reached that addresses all remaining U.S. and European concerns about Iran.

Capping a three-day visit to the United States in which he urged President Donald Trump to stay in the Iran pact, Macron told a joint meeting of Congress the current deal was not perfect but must remain in place until a replacement was forged.

"It is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns and very important concerns," Macron said. "But we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead. That's my position."

Trump has often vowed to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six major powers. He will decide by May 12 whether to restore U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, which could be a first step to ending the deal.

Macron met with American President Donald Trump a day earlier to convince him not to abandon the nuclear agreement.

The two leaders pledged during Macron's visit to seek stronger measures to contain Iran but Trump made no commitments to stay in the nuclear deal, negotiated by former President Barack Obama. Trump also threatened Tehran with retaliation if it restarted its nuclear program.

Macron has sought a new approach that would see the United States and Europe agree to address any Iranian nuclear activity after 2025, tackle Iran's ballistic missile program and seek a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

"What I want to do and what we decided together with your president is that we can work on a more comprehensive deal addressing all these concerns," Macron said, adding that France remains committed to the bottom line goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapon. Not now not in five years, not in 10 years, never," he told clapping lawmakers.

"Whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the actions of rogues. We will not leave the floor to this conflict of powers in the Middle East," Macron told Congress.

"I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns," he said.

The French president received several standing ovations during his speech.

In a broad speech, Macron also urged U.S. lawmakers to reject unilateralism and remain engaged with the world, saying modern economic and security challenges must be a shared responsibility.

"We can choose isolationism," said Macron, but closing the door to the world will not stop its evolution. He said that now is a critical moment and the global community must act with urgency to protect international institutions like the United Nations and NATO.

Macron denounced protectionism and nationalism and said the United States should step up its engagement with the world - a direct challenge to Trump's calls for withdrawal from the Paris climate pact and international trade agreements.

"The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it," he said.

He said he was confident the United States would eventually come back into the Paris climate accord.

"Let us work together in order to make our planet great again," he said. "I believe in building a better future for our children, which requires offering them a planet that is still habitable in 25 years."

Macron is the eighth French president to address a joint meeting of Congress, and the first since Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan's office said. The last foreign leader to address a joint meeting was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.

Germany's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that his country's top priority regarding Iran is to preserve the nuclear deal. Responding to a question regarding Macron's proposal of a supplementary deal, a spokesman said, noting that Germany would look at his suggestion carefully.

"For us, the position stays clear – the highest priority is keeping the nuclear agreement and full implementation on all sides," he said. "The nuclear agreement was negotiated with seven countries and the EU and can't be renegotiated or replaced on a whim, but it is also clear that beyond the nuclear agreement we want to make sure that Iran's nuclear program serves exclusively peaceful purposes," he said.

U.S. non-proliferation envoy Christopher Ford said on Wednesday that the United States is not seeking to reopen or renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, but hopes to stay in it to fix its flaws with a supplementary agreement.

"We are not aiming to renegotiate the JCPOA or reopen it or change its terms," Ford told reporters on the sidelines of a nuclear non-proliferation conference in Geneva.

"We are seeking a supplemental agreement that would in some fashion layer upon it a series of additional rules – restrictions, terms, parameters, whatever you want to call it – that help answer these challenges more effectively," he said.

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