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Europeans side with US over Iran on Saudi strikes, new nuclear deal

Gregory Viscusi and Robert Hutton, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

UNITED NATIONS -- Iran's key European allies distanced themselves from Tehran amid rising tension with the U.S., saying the Islamic Republic was responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities this month and calling for an expanded deal to constrain the country's nuclear and missile programs.

In a joint statement Monday, France and Germany joined the U.K. in saying Iran was behind the attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities, adding that "no other explanation is plausible."

While reiterating their support for the 2015 nuclear deal that President Donald Trump withdrew from last year, the three nations didn't repeat their past criticism of his decision. Instead, they said, "The moment has come for Iran to accept negotiations on a long-term framework on its nuclear program as well as on regional security, including its ballistic missiles."

An even more emphatic call for Iran to accept a new international accord came from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who showered praise on Trump as the world leader who could make that happen.

"Let's do a better deal," Johnson said in an interview with NBC News. "I think there's one guy who can do a better deal" and "that is the president of the United States. I hope there will be a Trump deal."

After Trump quit the multinational nuclear accord, the U.K., France and Germany worked to help Iran find a way around renewed and expanded U.S. sanctions, trying to create an alternative financial mechanism to facilitate trade. But Iranian officials repeatedly said the Europeans weren't doing enough to help Tehran reap the economic benefits expected from the agreement, and in recent months Iran began breaching limits on nuclear enrichment it had agreed to.

The nuclear deal was long criticized by Trump and his aides for not doing more to address Iran's ballistic missiles and "malign" behavior in the region, from Syria to Yemen. Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are in New York this week, though both sides have effectively ruled out a meeting to help lower tensions following the Aramco strike, the shooting down of an American drone and a spate of attacks on oil tankers earlier this year.

 

Trump last week ordered a modest increase of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region. Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected involvement in the Aramco attack and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned that a military strike on Iran by Saudi or U.S. forces would turn into "all-out war."

(With assistance from David Wainer.)

(c)2019 Bloomberg News

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