Iran Takes The Spotlight At The U.N.

Sep 20, 2017
Originally published on September 20, 2017 11:35 am
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A lot of focus today at the U.N. will be on the Iran nuclear deal. For one thing, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani is going to be speaking, and also Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to come face-to-face with his Iranian counterpart at a meeting organized by Europeans who want to keep this nuclear deal in place. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that President Trump leaves little doubt about what he thinks of the deal.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: For now the Trump administration has kept up its side of the bargain continuing to offer Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on Iran's nuclear program. But when he addressed the United Nations Tuesday, President Trump blasted the deal.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it. Believe me.

KELEMEN: But what does he want instead? That's not so clear, according to French President Emmanuel Macron, who met with President Trump earlier this week. Macron told reporters Tuesday that the 2015 agreement is the best option for now to keep watch on Iran's nuclear program. He spoke through an interpreter.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Through interpreter) Obviously, if it's not fully implemented then we should consider sanctions as provided for in the agreement. That is not the situation today. If we simply threw out this agreement there's nothing to replace it, and I don't want to find myself in a no-man's land.

KELEMEN: Macron says he is willing to talk about some other concerns he shares with the U.S. That includes Iran's ballistic missile program, which was not covered by the agreement, and what happens next when the limits on the Iranian nuclear program are phased out.


MACRON: (Through interpreter) We need to start negotiations on this situation after 2025 because the 2015 agreement only covers 10 years, until 2025. So we need to start discussions on what happens afterwards.

KELEMEN: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been warning about these so-called sunset clauses. He, too, had a message to the U.N. on this deal.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Change it or cancel it. Fix it or nix it.

KELEMEN: Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote recently on Twitter that the nuclear deal is not up for renegotiation. A better deal is pure fantasy, he tweeted. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson hasn't spoken to Zarif yet, but that changes today. The European Union is gathering all the parties involved in the nuclear deal this evening on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, and Zarif and Tillerson are expected to attend. The EU's Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini says her role is to make sure all sides are complying, and so far she says Iran is. Asked about the possibility that the Trump administration could pull out, the EU official had this to say.


FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF FEDERICA MOGHERINI: The deal doesn't belong to one country or another. The deal belongs to the international community.

KELEMEN: And for now, most world powers want to keep it in place. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.