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France's Macron Continues To Urge Trump To Stay In Iran Nuclear Deal


During his visit to Washington, French President Emmanuel Macron has been making his case to President Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. Macron is urging Trump to work with Europe to counter Iran's bad behavior in the region. In other words, the French leader is saying it's better to build up around the nuclear deal rather than tear it down. But Trump's advisers don't seem too concerned about the fate of an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: When President Macron addressed Congress today, he made clear that his country shares the U.S. goal that Iran shall never possess nuclear weapons.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: Not in five years, not in 10 years, never.


KELEMEN: But he's also cautioning President Trump not to simply walk away from a deal that is working to limit Iran's nuclear program.


MACRON: This agreement may not address all concerns and very important concerns. This is true. But we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead.

KELEMEN: President Trump has to decide by May 12 whether to continue to uphold the U.S. side of the bargain with sanctions relief. Trump is making no promises, and his aides have been arguing that it's easy to leave. Here's his ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, during a recent speech at Duke University.


NIKKI HALEY: Let's say we do get out of it. What changes? We stay true to our values that we're not going to support an actor that's supporting terrorism. The Europeans stay in the deal. Fine, they can have at it. We can put our sanctions back on. Iran is not going to get out of that deal.

KELEMEN: The sanctions, though, are ones that could hurt Europeans and other U.S. allies that import oil from Iran. And it's not like the U.S. can claw back the economic benefits Iran is getting, as Republican lawmaker Jeff Flake pointed out at a confirmation hearing for secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo.


JEFF FLAKE: So, in effect, Iran has already realized much of the benefit from the agreement. But if we were to exit the agreement now, we would give them reason to renege on the agreements that they have made on the nuclear side. Is that right?

MIKE POMPEO: Senator, they are still receiving enormous economic benefits even as we sit here this morning.

KELEMEN: Pompeo sounded rather nonchalant about leaving the deal, making an argument that was surprising for someone who had been a proponent of military strikes to stop Iran's nuclear program.


POMPEO: Iran wasn't racing to a weapon before the deal. There is no indication that I'm aware of that if the deal no longer existed, that they would immediately turn to racing to create a nuclear weapon today.

KELEMEN: And Pompeo is not the only Iran skeptic who has President Trump's ear on this. The new national security adviser, John Bolton, was telling Fox News shortly before joining the administration that there's no way to fix the Iran nuclear deal as the Europeans want.


JOHN BOLTON: The discussion ought to be, how do we explain to the Europeans that they got suckered by the ayatollahs in Tehran, and how do we go forward from there?

KELEMEN: That puts U.S. diplomats in an awkward spot. They've been negotiating with European partners on how to address some of Trump's concerns. But that and the French president's offer to help may not be enough to keep Trump in the deal. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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