Monday 19 August 2019

'Trump killed Iran deal out of spite because it was Obama's'


Spotlight: US President Donald Trump has been the focus of several documents leaked to a British newspaper. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Spotlight: US President Donald Trump has been the focus of several documents leaked to a British newspaper. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Jill Lawless, Paris Hafezi and Bate Felix

A British newspaper published more leaked memos from the UK's ambassador in Washington yesterday, despite a police warning that doing so might be a crime.

In one 2018 cable published by the 'Mail on Sunday', British ambassador Kim Darroch says US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran as an act of "diplomatic vandalism" to spite his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The memo was written after then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson visited Washington in a failed attempt to persuade the US not to abandon the Iran nuclear agreement.

"The outcome illustrated the paradox of this White House: you got exceptional access, seeing everyone short of the president; but on the substance, the administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons - it was Obama's deal," Mr Darroch wrote.

Mr Darroch announced his resignation last week after the newspaper published cables in which he had branded the Trump administration dysfunctional and inept. The White House responded by refusing to deal with him, and Mr Trump branded the ambassador a "pompous fool" in a Twitter fusillade.

British police are hunting the culprits behind the leak - and, contentiously, have warned journalists that publishing the documents "could also constitute a criminal offence".

Yet both Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the two contenders to become Britain's next prime minister, have defended the media's right to publish.

"We have to make sure that we defend the right of journalists to publish leaks when they are in the national interest," Mr Hunt said.

British officials have said they have no evidence that hacking was involved in the documents' release, and that the culprit is likely to be found among politicians or civil servants in London.

Police are investigating the leak as a potential breach of the Official Secrets Act, which bars public servants from making "damaging" disclosures of classified material.

Breaking the act carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, though prosecutions are rare.

Meanwhile, Iran is ready to hold talks with the United States if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech yesterday.

Mr Trump's administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues.

But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the United States withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018.

"We have always believed in talks ... if they lift sanctions, end the imposed economic pressure and return to the deal, we are ready to hold talks with America today, right now and anywhere," Mr Rouhani said in his speech.

Confrontations between Washington and Tehran have escalated, culminating in a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that Mr Trump called off at the last minute.

Calling for dialogue between all parties to resume, France, Britain and Germany - parties to the 2015 pact - said yesterday they were preoccupied by the escalation of tensions in the Gulf region and the risk the nuclear deal might fall apart.

"We believe that the time has come to act responsibly and to look for ways to stop the escalation of tension and resume dialogue," they said in a joint statement that was released by the French president's office.

Defying a warning by the European parties to the pact to continue its full compliance, Tehran has amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted and it has started to enrich uranium above the 3.67pc permitted by the agreement.

Irish Independent

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