European Union voices support for Iran nuclear deal as U.S. mulls withdrawal

Win McNamee-Getty Images North America—AFP

Thursday's meeting in Brussels was convened by the European Union chief foreign affairs representative, Federica Mogherini, who said the deal was essential in preventing a nuclear arms race.

On the eve of a deadline for the US president to decide whether to reimpose oil sanctions lifted under the deal, the foreign ministers of the three European powers and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made their plea after their meeting in Brussels.

Donald Trump's decision past year not to certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal puts America at odds with the other signatories.

First, it seems likely that Trump will opt for some kind of middle-of-the-road solution - pushing for sanctions on Iran's non-nuclear activities, which are not part of the deal, or kicking the can down the road a few more months for more negotiations in Congress and with Europe.

If Trump reimposes sanctions on Tehran, European powers fear the deal would fall apart.

"We will not remain silent as the Iranian dictatorship represses the basic rights of its citizens and will hold Iran's leaders accountable for any violations", White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

While the president remains sharply critical of the deal - even moving to "decertify" it under USA law in October - administration sources say he's now leaning toward once again approving the broad-based waivers.

Under the accord, Iran slowed its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of worldwide economic sanctions.

"None of U.S. allies in the region give the same rights to their people and interestingly neither USA government nor United States congress are anxious about lack of democracy in these countries", said the Iranian top diplomat referring to Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain which are ruled by monarchs with no parliament and election in their political system.

According to two U.S. sources, Trump had not made a decision by Wednesday, while Johnson told the British parliament on Tuesday that London was urging "our friends in the White House not to throw it away".

"You either waive the sanctions or you don't and if you don't you're in breach of the JCPOA", the official said.

It's not clear whether Congress will live up to the administration's hope for new legislation authorizing more the more targeted sanctions or other changes to the US commitments under the deal.

Another US official said Trump was expected by some officials to renew the sanctions waivers but stressed that no final decision had been made.

Trump in October chose not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warned he might ultimately terminate it.

But he will also use the meeting to raise the issue of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual-national consular cases with Tehran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

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