Tillerson seeks UK, French backing for more Iran sanctions

The US Secretary of State is in Europe rallying support to fix the nuclear deal with Iran.

By: AP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seeking British and French support for tough new penalties against Iran to prevent a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Tillerson on Sunday began a nearly weeklong trip to Europe, and a US official said Iran was expected to dominate Tillerson’s talks in London and Paris, the first two stops.

Britain and France are parties to the 2015 Iran deal that President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from this spring unless fixes are made to his liking.

A US official said Tillerson’s intent is “to close the gaps” in the accord that gave Iran billions in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program, and to explore more ways to counter Iranian behavior in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Earlier this month, Trump pledged to stop waiving US sanctions unless the Europeans agreed to strengthen its terms by consenting to a side deal that would effectively eliminate provisions that allow Iran to gradually resume its advanced atomic work.

Trump also wants tighter restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Iran has rejected any renegotiation. Britain, France and the other European party to the accord, Germany, have expressed some willingness to work with the US to prevent the pact’s collapse by discussing measures that would supplement its conditions.

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A US withdrawal probably would scrap the agreement, a chief foreign policy achievement for President Barack Obama, by reimposing a broad range of sanctions that isolate Iran from the international financial system.

Iran has said it will no longer be bound by the terms of the deal if that happens.

Tillerson, on his eighth trip to Europe since becoming secretary of state a year ago, planned to meet with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and national security adviser Mark Sedwill on Monday. From London, Tillerson will travel to Paris for talks on many of the same subjects with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.