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story.lead_photo.caption In this March 23, 2018, file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak at a news conference in Brussels.

WASHINGTON -- Two European leaders plan separate visits to Washington this month, and both are urging the U.S. to remain in the landmark Iran nuclear deal that President Donald Trump has vowed to leave.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will likely be the last foreign leaders invested in the deal to see Trump ahead of his mid-May deadline for the accord to be strengthened. Trump has said he will withdraw from the 2015 agreement by May 12 unless U.S., British, French and German negotiators can agree to fix what he sees as its serious flaws.

Iran has said U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions would destroy the agreement and has threatened a range of responses, including immediately restarting nuclear activities currently barred under the deal.

Negotiators met for a fourth time last week and made some progress but were unable to reach agreement on all points, according to U.S. officials and outside advisers to the Trump administration familiar with the status of the talks. That potentially leaves the Iran deal's fate to Macron, who will make a state visit to Washington on April 24, and Merkel, who pays a working visit to the U.S. capital on April 27, these people said.

"It's important to them, and I know they'll raise their hopes and concerns when they travel here to the United States in the coming days," Mike Pompeo, the CIA chief and nominee for secretary of state, told lawmakers on Thursday.

Pompeo's testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing came a day after the negotiators met at the State Department to go over the four issues that Trump says must be addressed if he is to once again renew sanctions relief for Iran, officials said.

Those are: Iran's ballistic missile testing and destabilizing behavior in the region, which are not covered by the deal; inspections of suspected nuclear sites; and so-called sunset provisions in the agreement that gradually allow Iran to resume advanced nuclear work after several years.

Two senior U.S. officials said the sides are "close to agreement" on missiles and inspections but "not there yet" on the sunset provisions.

"Malign" Iranian activities, including its support for Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, were dealt with in a separate session that ended inconclusively, according to the officials, who like the outside advisers were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The two officials and two outside advisers said the missile and inspections issues are essentially settled, but would not detail exactly what had been agreed or predict whether it would pass muster with Trump -- let alone Pompeo, or Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton. Both men are Iran hawks and share the president's disdain for the deal, which was a signature foreign policy achievement of former President Barack Obama.

Officials and advisers said the main sticking point on the Iran deal remains the sunset provisions, with the Europeans balking at U.S. demands for the automatic reimposition of sanctions should Iran engage in advanced nuclear activity that would be permitted by the agreement once the restrictions expire.

The Europeans, who along with the Iranians have said they will not reopen the deal for negotiation, are reluctant to automatically reimpose sanctions for permitted activity, but have agreed in principle that Iran dropping below a one-year breakout time should be cause to at least consider new sanctions, according to the official and the adviser. How that breakout time is determined is still being discussed, they said.

A Section on 04/16/2018

Print Headline: Europeans to press U.S. on Iran

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