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Iran rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘strange’ proposal to strike new Trump deal to replace nuclear pact

In separate comments, foreign minister Zarif admits Iranian people were ‘lied to’ over plane crash

Richard Hall
Middle East correspondent
Wednesday 15 January 2020 13:01 GMT
Boris Johnson admits that he worked really hard on Iran while he was on holiday

Iran has rejected as “strange” a proposal from Boris Johnson that it should strike a new nuclear deal with the US, suggesting that Donald Trump’s administration was not trustworthy enough.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, said the solution to the current sky-high tensions between Iran and the US was to return to a deal with world powers that was abandoned by Mr Trump in 2018.

“This Mr Prime Minister in London, I don’t know how he thinks. He says let’s put aside the nuclear deal and put the Trump plan in action,” Mr Rouhani said in a televised speech.

“If you take the wrong step, it will be to your detriment. Pick the right path. The right path is to return to the nuclear deal,” he said of the 2015 agreement, which was brokered by Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Mr Rouhani also issued a thinly veiled threat at US and European troops deployed in the Middle East if the current crisis was not resolved.

“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” he said, without elaborating.

Mr Johnson on Tuesday called on the US president to replace the deal, which was designed to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon, with his own new agreement.

“If we’re going to get rid of it, let’s replace it and let’s replace it with the Trump deal,” Mr Johnson said. “That would be a great way forward.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also poured scorn on the suggestion.

“I had a US deal and the US broke it. If I have a Trump deal, how long will it last?” he said at a security conference in New Delhi.

New attention has been brought to Iran’s nuclear programme following weeks of tensions between Iran and the US, which spilled over into military confrontation with the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike on 3 January.

Iran responded by firing a barrage of missiles at US military bases in Iraq, and promised to force American troops from the region.

The current tensions have their roots in a decision by Mr Trump to walk away from the internationally brokered nuclear deal and impose harsh sanctions on Tehran.

Iran responded by also reducing its commitments to the agreement, and stepped away even further following Soleimani’s killing, announcing it would ignore all limitations on enriching uranium set down in the pact.

Mr Zarif insisted on Wednesday that the existing deal was “not dead,” a day after Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran of violating the terms of that agreement, a move that could eventually lead to the reimposing of United Nations sanctions.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, insisted in a statement to MPs that EU nations wanted to rescue the agreement, prompting criticism that No 10 and the Foreign Office were at odds.

Mr Zarif also commented on the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by his country’s military, killing 176 passengers and crew, on the same night that it fired missiles at US bases in Iraq.

While blaming US “ignorance” and “arrogance” for “fuelling mayhem” in the Middle East, he also acknowledged the anger Iranians felt over the shooting down of the plane.

“In the last few nights, we’ve had people in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days,” Mr Zarif said.

He went on to praise Iran’s military for being “brave enough to claim responsibility early on”.

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