April 25, 2018 / 1:46 PM / 3 months ago

Israel raises prospect of Trump opting for deal with Europe over Iran

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s intelligence minister said on Wednesday that a proposed new U.S.-European deal over Iran’s nuclear program might dissuade U.S. President Donald Trump from abandoning the current agreement between world powers and Tehran.

FILE PHOTO: Israel Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem September 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

The minister, Israel Katz, did not say, in a radio interview, whether Israel - which has called for the 2015 nuclear deal to be “fixed or nixed” - backed a separate arrangement put forward by French President Emmanuel Macron.

“President Trump’s inclination is not to extend the deal’s term - in essence, to return to the sanctions track - unless a European-backed proposal is placed before him, for an alternative agreement between the United States and Europe,” Katz said.

“(It would contain) complementary steps which will remove the grave dangers in this (2015) nuclear agreement, which he defined as a bad deal.”

With a May 12 deadline looming for Trump to decide on restoring U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, Macron, on a visit to the United States, said on Tuesday he spoke to the president about a “new deal” in which Washington and Europe would tackle the outstanding concerns about Iran beyond its nuclear program.

U.S. President Donald Trump toasts French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) during a State Dinner at the White House in Washington, U.S. April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Macron is using the state visit as a high-stakes bid to salvage the Iran agreement, which many in the West see as the best hope of preventing Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb and heading off an atomic arms race in the Middle East.

Under Macron’s proposal, the United States and Europe would agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called specifically for cancelling a core “sunset clause” that removes caps on Iran’s nuclear projects after a number of years.

Katz said the West had signed the 2015 agreement “too soon” and should have maintained tough economic sanctions that were suspended in return for Tehran agreeing to roll back technologies with bomb-making potential.

“The president of France and his colleagues in Europe must understand that putting heavy pressure on Iran today can prevent violence and perhaps war tomorrow,” the minister said.

It was unclear whether Macron made substantial progress in his efforts to prevent Trump from pulling out of the deal, and Trump stressed there would be repercussions should Iran restart its nuclear program.

Iran has said it will ramp up that program if the agreement collapses.

Editing by Richard Balmforth

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