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UK challenges US to find better alternative for Iran nuclear deal

The ministers demanded Trump lift sanctions on Iran, an obligation under the pact signed by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2015

11 January 2018, 4:25pm
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has challenged the US to show there is a better alternative to the deal with Iran that limits its nuclear programme.

The foreign secretary was at a joint press conference in Brussels, alongside EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Iran, in a major show of support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

The ministers demanded Trump lift sanctions on Iran, an obligation under the pact signed by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2015, after the International Energy Agency (IEA) repeatedly found Tehran was keeping its part of the agreement.

Following talks in Brussels with his Iranian and European counterparts, he said the 2015 accord was a considerable accomplishment that was preventing Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

“We think it is a considerable diplomatic accomplishment,” Johnson said after the EU-brokered meeting, “I don’t think anybody has come up with a better idea.”

“I think it is incumbent on those who oppose the JCPOA to come up with a better solution because we haven’t seen it so far,” he said in a rebuke of Trump that could further strain the "special relationship" between the UK and US.

US President Donald Trump wants to amend the deal or withdraw from it.

In October, he refused to recertify for Congress that Iran was complying, accusing it of "not living up to the spirit" of the agreement.

He has repeatedly criticised the deal and refused to certify that Tehran is meeting the terms of the pact, despite the IEA saying it had done so on eight occasions. The president must decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports under the terms of the pact and is expected to make a decision tomorrow.

The sanctions had cut Iran's central bank out of the international financial system and imposed penalties for buying Iranian oil, crippling the country's economy.

At a news conference after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday, representatives of the EU, the UK, France and Germany reiterated their support for the nuclear deal they helped negotiate.

"The deal is working, it is delivering on its main goal which means keeping the Iranian nuclear programme in check and under close surveillance," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

The European ministers expressed concerns about Iran's ballistic missile programme and involvement in regional conflicts, but said they should be kept separate from the nuclear deal.

The US says Iranian ballistic missile tests conducted in the past year have violated a UN Security Council resolution.