Thursday 23 January 2020

UK calls for new 'Trump deal' with Iran to solve nuclear crisis

Anger: Protests like this one in Tehran have been held daily since the official admission of the error to shoot down the plane. Photo: Reuters
Anger: Protests like this one in Tehran have been held daily since the official admission of the error to shoot down the plane. Photo: Reuters

Roland Oliphant and Josie Ensor

Boris Johnson has called on Donald Trump to come up with an alternative to the Iran nuclear accord as Britain, France and Germany formally accused the Islamic republic of non-compliance with the agreement.

In a drastic step that could ultimately lead to the deal's collapse, European signatories said yesterday they had "no choice" but to trigger a dispute resolution mechanism after Iran said it would ignore limitations on uranium enrichment and centrifuge research.

Under the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed with China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US to restrict its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Mr Trump pulled the US out and reimposed sanctions in 2018. Iran began a staged suspension of its own commitments in response last May, and last week announced it would no longer accept limits on its uranium enrichment.

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Britain, France and Germany have so far resisted US demands to also quit the deal, insisting it is the only way to stop Iran getting a bomb.

But in a dramatic change of tack, British Prime Minister Mr Johnson suggested that the deal could be replaced with one negotiated by the US president. "The problem with the JCPOA is that from the American perspective, it's a flawed agreement, plus it was negotiated by President Obama," he told the BBC.

He added that a replacement "Trump deal" would be a way out of the crisis.

Iran has previously ruled out renegotiating the deal and it is unclear whether it would entertain talks on a fresh agreement with Mr Trump, who may not be in office after November's presidential elections.

In a joint statement, Britain, France and Germany, known as the E3, said the dispute mechanism had been triggered in an effort to buy time for the US and Iran to ease tensions. "We do this in good faith with the objective of preserving the JCPOA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue," they said.

Iran's foreign ministry accused the E3 of seeking to "abuse" the process, and threatened unspecified "consequences".

Iran said it would return to full compliance with the deal if the US lifted all sanctions, and added that it was continuing to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor its programmes under the agreement.

Meanwhile, Iran said yesterday it had arrested people accused of a role in shooting down a Ukrainian airliner and had also detained 30 people involved in protests that have swept the nation for four days since the military belatedly admitted its error.

The downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, which killed all 176 people aboard, has created a new crisis for the Islamic Republic's clerical rulers.

President Hassan Rouhani promised a thorough investigation into the "unforgivable error" in an address yesterday.

It was the latest in a series of apologies by the leadership that has done little to quell public anger.

Tehran has faced an escalating confrontation with the West and a wave of unrest since the US killed Iran's most powerful military commander in a drone strike on January 3.

Iran shot down the plane last Wednesday when its military was on high alert, hours after firing missiles at US targets in Iraq. It admitted the mistake on Saturday after days of denials. New security camera footage shows two missiles, fired 30 seconds apart, hitting the plane after take-off, the 'New York Times' reported yesterday.

A person who posted a video online last week of a missile striking the plane has been taken into custody by the elite Revolutionary Guards, the Fars news agency reported.

Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said some of those accused of having a role in the plane disaster had been arrested, although he did not say how many or identify them.

Since the official admission, protesters, many of them students, have held daily demonstrations, chanting "Clerics get lost!" Police have responded to some protests with a violent crackdown, video posts on social media showed, with police beating protesters with batons, wounded people being carried, pools of blood on the streets and the sound of gunfire. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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