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Iran Reacts Angrily To U.S. Decision To Pull Out Of Nuke Deal

Iranian lawmakers chanting anti-U.S. slogans at the parliament in Tehran on May 9
Iranian lawmakers chanting anti-U.S. slogans at the parliament in Tehran on May 9

Iran has reacted with anger to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal while European governments scrambled to salvage the landmark agreement.

Iranian lawmakers lit a paper U.S. flag on fire at parliament on May 9, shouting, "Death to America!" as parliament speaker Ali Larijani said responsibility for saving the deal fell on the EU and other world powers still in the accord.

"Trump's abandoning of the nuclear deal was a diplomatic show.... Iran has no obligation to honor its commitments under the current situation," Larijani told parliament on May 9. "It is obvious that Trump only understands the language of force."

Larijani also urged the country's nuclear department to prepare for "resumption of all aspects of nuclear activities."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Trump "made a mistake," according to his official website.

Trump announced on May 8 he would reimpose U.S. economic sanctions on Iran to undermine what he called "a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made."

The 2015 agreement, worked out by the United States, five other world powers, and Iran, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. The pact was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

France said the Iranian nuclear accord was "not dead" despite the U.S. withdrawal.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France's RTL radio on May 9 that "the risks of confrontation are real" after Trump's decision to pull out of the landmark agreement.

Le Drian said that "we are ready to work on a widened accord" that would address Trump's concerns about the 2015 deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. Le Drian said he and his British and German counterparts will meet later on May 9 with Iranian representatives for talks.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin remained committed to the Iran nuclear deal and urged Tehran to stick to its commitments under the agreement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the U.S. decision showed Europe will face increasing responsibility to secure peace and seek political solutions to conflicts.

Merkel underlined the commitment of Germany, France, and Britain to stick with the accord.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Parliament on May 9 that he had no problem with Trump's goal for a lasting solution to Iran's nuclear threat, but added, "The question is: how does the U.S. propose to achieve it?"

Johnson said his country "has no intention of walking away" from the deal, which London, he said, believes is working to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was deeply concerned over the U.S. decision, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a Kremlin spokesman as saying on May 9.

Trump's '10 Lies'

In Tehran, Khamenei struck a defiant tone, saying Trump's remarks threatened Iran's people and its theocratic government.

Khamenei described Trump's speech on May 8 as having "over 10 lies," without elaborating.

"Mr. Trump, I tell you on behalf of the Iranian people: You've made a mistake," Khamenei said, according to comments on his official website. Under Iran's Islamic republic, Khamenei has final say on all state matters.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said Iran was abiding by the agreement.

In a statement on May 9, Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that "as of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran."

On May 8, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said he had ordered his diplomats to negotiate with China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany in the coming weeks to determine whether Iran can keep benefiting from cooperation from those countries, which have all pledged to continue honoring the deal.

"If we achieve the deal's goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place," Rohani said, although he also warned that Iran was ready to resume nuclear activities curbed under the deal in exchange for sanctions relief if the U.S. withdrawal made it impossible for Iran's economy to continue benefiting.

"We will not allow Trump to win this psychological war," Rohani said.

Russia and the European powers also vowed to stick with the deal, with leading U.S. allies in Europe calling on Washington not to do anything to undermine their commitment to keeping the deal in place.

European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Iran to "stay true to your commitments as we will stay true to ours, and together with the rest of the international community we will preserve this nuclear deal."

A Russian diplomat said the deal remains in effect as long as Iran continues to honor it, while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all countries to "abide fully" by the deal, which he called a "major achievement."

In a joint statement, Britain, France, and Germany called on the United States to "ensure the structures of the [deal] can remain intact, and avoid taking actions which obstruct its full implementation by all other parties to the deal."

But top U.S. officials were already working to stymie efforts by European powers to go ahead with business deals they undertook when sanctions on Iran were lifted in 2016.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he was revoking the licenses not only for the sale of hundreds of passenger planes to Iran by the U.S. aircraft giant Boeing, but by Europe's Airbus plane manufacturer as well.

IranAir had ordered 200 passenger aircraft: 100 from Airbus, 80 from Boeing, and 20 from Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR. All the deals are dependent on U.S. licenses because of the heavy use of U.S. parts in commercial planes.

The Treasury also gave other companies that are doing business with Iran 90 to 180 days to wind down their existing contracts, in a far-reaching order that has the potential to affect major global companies, including General Electric, Volkswagen, Total, Peugeot Citroen, British Airways, Accor, and Lufthansa.

Meanwhile, the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, advised German companies doing business with Iran to "wind down operations immediately" in a post on Twitter.

"U.S. sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran's economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately," he wrote.

Germany is one of Iran's largest trading partners, with German exports to Iran hitting some 2.6 billion euros ($3.1 billion) in 2016, up 26 percent from the previous year, according to the Finance Ministry in Berlin.

In abruptly pulling the United States out of the deal, Trump had vowed that the United States would resume a sanctions regime against Tehran that would be as tough as possible.

"We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions," he said.

Trump said his goal was to "work with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat," but none of the other world powers that signed the 2015 agreement stepped forward on May 8 to go down the path of negotiating a new deal.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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