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European Co-Signatories To Iran Nuclear Deal Say They Want It To Continue


President Trump is expected to say this week he will not recertify the Iran nuclear deal - a deal that gives Tehran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program. If Trump takes that step, Congress could reimpose economic sanctions. That would effectively end U.S. participation in the agreement. The European countries that co-signed the 2015 deal are watching closely. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris that they do not plan to follow the U.S.'s lead.



Paris lawyer Ardavan Amir-Aslani has just returned from Tehran, where he opened an office last year to facilitate French investment. He says while European companies are nervous about President Trump's threats to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement, he thinks the deal will survive.

AMIR-ASLANI: The more the U.S. administration adopts an aggressive attitude, a bombastic attitude towards Iran, the more the European countries who are also signatories to the nuclear deal will side with Iran. And this is obvious through the positions that their leaders have adopted recently in relation to comments of the United States president.

BEARDSLEY: Amir-Aslani helped negotiate a joint venture deal for French car maker Peugeot Citroen, which, along with Renault, will begin building cars in Iran next year. European plane maker Airbus has also inked deals for more than a hundred civilian aircraft. Erwan Benezet, a journalist covering those industries with newspaper Le Parisien, says French companies are raring to go to Iran.

ERWAN BENEZET: Because it's a speed race, the first companies there will win the market.

BEARDSLEY: The White House sees sanctions as a way of choking off cash that Iran uses to support Hezbollah, Hamas, the Syrian regime and to develop its missile program. But Benezet says the momentum can no longer be stopped, and American companies like Boeing will be the big losers if the U.S. quits the Iran nuclear agreement. Benezet says the world has changed, and the U.S. can no longer impose its policies on other nations.

BENEZET: So Europe, China, India, whatever could say, OK, that's your decision. We respect it. But since we consider that Iran is playing the game, we'll go there.

BEARDSLEY: There is broad support for the nuclear deal across Europe. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Europeans want to continue with the agreement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed the deal's importance to President Trump. In an interview last month, French President Emmanuel Macron told CNN that North Korea is a very good illustration of why it's important to stay engaged with Iran.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: Because we stopped everything with North Korea years and years ago. We stopped any monitoring, any discussions with them. And as a result, they will probably get nuclear weapon. So my position for Iran, President Trump is to say, look at the situation on North Korea. I don't want to replicate the situation with Iran.


DELPHINE O: (Speaking in French).

BEARDSLEY: Delphine O is a new congresswoman from Macron's party. She's also president of the French-Iranian friendship group in Parliament. O says she's worried that the spirit of the deal could be squandered.

O: We managed to build back trust between Iran and the West, a trust that has been lacking for 38 years since the Islamic Revolution. And trust that had been built back is now being eroded, mainly because of the attitude of the U.S.

BEARDSLEY: If Trump decertifies the Iran deal, European diplomats will have to try to convince the U.S. Congress not to impose new sanctions. If that effort fails, O says, Europe will look for ways to protect its new business with Iran. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.