May 23, 2018 / 6:02 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Germany tells US: Iran nuclear deal keeps us safe, must be preserved

(Recasts, adds more quotes, background)

WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - Germany told U.S. President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser on Wednesday that Europe remained “very, very united” in supporting a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran because it feared a proliferation of atomic weapons on its doorstep.

Trump pulled the United States out of the accord earlier this month, shrugging off appeals from Washington’s European allies which argued that the deal had succeeded in curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for a lifting of sanctions.

Scrapping the deal would allow Iran to resume its nuclear programme and this would “massively jeopardise” Europe’s security, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters after talks with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.

“Europe is very, very united in its position on the nuclear accord with Iran, and that will not change... We don’t want a proliferation of nuclear weapons in our expanded neighbourhood,” Maas said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal showed that the Islamic Republic could not deal with a country that could not keep its commitments.

Maas, who was due to meet later on Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, described his talks with Bolton, known for his hawkish views on Iran, as frank but constructive.

“DIFFICULT” DISCUSSIONS AHEAD

Maas said European countries shared U.S. concerns about Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles and its behaviour in the Middle East, but believed those issues should be addressed without undermining the nuclear deal.

On Monday Pompeo threatened Iran with “the strongest sanctions in history” if it did not curb its regional influence, accusing Tehran of supporting armed groups in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Deputy foreign ministers of the remaining parties to the accord - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - will meet their Iranian counterpart on Friday in Vienna.

The meeting will assess what can be done to keep the deal and circumvent extraterritorial U.S. sanctions that are impacting foreign business appetite for Iran.

Maas said he expected the coming discussions to be “difficult” but gave no details. He said it was also important for the United States to spell out its next steps.

He also said European leaders were concerned about the future of the transatlantic relationship, but expected it to withstand the differences of opinion over the Iran deal and other thorny issues.

Maas said he had also discussed the Syrian civil war and the overall situation in the Middle East with Bolton. European countries have also been rattled recently by Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton Writing by Andrea Shalal Editing by Gareth Jones)

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