By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday gave the Iran nuclear deal a final reprieve but warned European allies and Congress they had to work with him to “fix the terrible flaws” of the pact or face U.S. withdrawal.
Trump said he would waive sanctions against Iran lifted as part of the deal but only as a “last chance” and would not do so again. The ultimatum puts pressure on Europeans – key backers and parties to the 2015 international agreement – to satisfy Trump, who has called the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program “the worst ever.”
Trump wants the deal strengthened with a separate agreement within 120 days or the United States will unilaterally withdraw from the international pact, warning: “No one should doubt my word.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Twitter that the deal was not renegotiable and that Trump’s stance “amounts to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.”
Trump, who has sharply criticized the deal reached during Democrat Barack Obama’s presidency, had privately chafed at having to once again waive sanctions on a country he sees as a rising threat in the Middle East.
“This is a last chance,” Trump said in a statement. “In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”
Underscoring the difficulty now facing Europeans, a European diplomat, speaking under condition of anonymity, said: “It’s going to be complicated to save the deal after this.”
While Trump approved the sanctions waiver, the Treasury Department announced new, targeted sanctions against 14 entities and people, including the head of Iran’s judiciary.
Trump now will work with European partners on a follow-on agreement that enshrines certain triggers that the Iranian regime cannot exceed related to ballistic missiles, said a senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the decision.
One official said Trump would be open to remaining in a modified deal if it was made permanent.
“I hereby call on key European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal, countering Iranian aggression, and supporting the Iranian people,” Trump said in the statement. “If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran.”
Republican Senator Bob Corker said “significant progress” had been made on bipartisan congressional legislation to “address the flaws in the agreement without violating U.S. commitments.”
ns preventing Iran from possessing a nuclear weapon must not expire