June 26, 2019 / 4:29 PM / 22 days ago

Macron calls for 'little gestures' to defuse U.S.-Iran tensions

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference after the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

TOKYO (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said Iran and world powers including the United States needed to find a way back into talks that restore trust and defuse a dangerous escalation in tensions.

Macron told Japan’s public broadcaster NHK he shared U.S. President Donald Trump’s goal of preventing Iran obtaining nuclear weapons but at times disagreed with his methods.

Trump threatened on Tuesday to obliterate parts of Iran if it attacked “anything American”, in a new war of words with Iran, which condemned fresh U.S. sanctions on Tehran as “mentally retarded.”

“I believe the escalation, sanctions on top of sanctions, provocations, the military build-up, is extremely dangerous because it could ignite the region, it could lead to over-reactions,” Macron told Japanese broadcaster NHK on the eve of a G20 summit in Osaka.

Iran shot down a U.S. drone last week and Trump said he had called off a retaliatory air strike with minutes to spare, in what would have been the first time the United States had bombed the Islamic Republic in four decades of mutual hostility.

European capitals are struggling to keep alive a nuclear deal brokered in 2015 after Trump pulled the United States out and reimposed economic sanctions.

Macron said Paris and Washington wanted to negotiate a new, more stringent deal. But first, he added, little gestures were needed to defuse tensions.

“Now, all parties must find a way into what might be a negotiation that in the short term ensures no one loses face and which allows confidence to be rebuilt,” Macron said. “When confidence is lost, you need little gestures to reduce tensions.”

Reporting by Chris Gallagher in Tokyo and Marine Pennetier in Paris; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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