France calls for tough EU approach on Iran to save nuclear deal

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, right, arrives for a round table meeting of EU foreign ministers at the Europa building in Brussels on Monday. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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France calls for tough EU approach on Iran to save nuclear deal

BRUSSELS: France urged the EU on Monday to consider new sanctions on Iran over its involvement in Syria’s civil war and its ballistic missile program, as Paris tries to persuade Washington to preserve a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
US President Donald Trump has given the European signatories a May 12 deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” of the deal, which was agreed under his predecessor Barack Obama, or he will refuse to extend US sanctions relief on Iran.
In response, the three European signatories — France, Britain and Germany — have proposed new EU sanctions targeting Iranians who support Syrian regime in that country’s civil war and Tehran’s ballistic missile program, according to a confidential document seen by Reuters.
“We are determined to ensure that the Vienna accord is respected,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on arrival for talks with his EU counterparts, referring to the city where the 2015 deal was signed.
“But we must not exclude (from consideration) Iran’s responsibility in the proliferation of ballistic missiles and in its very questionable role in the near- and Middle East,” he said. “That must also be discussed to reach a common position.”
The confidential document cites “transfers of Iranian missiles and missile technology” to Syria and allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Any EU-wide measures would be the first significant punitive steps since the bloc lifted broad economic sanctions on Iran last year following the 2015 accord to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions for at least a decade.
But new sanctions would need the support of all 28 EU member states. Some of them are keen to rebuild a business relationship that once made the EU Iran’s top trading partner and its second-biggest oil customer.
“We have to explore all the possible measures to have the same type of pressure as we had in the nuclear dossier,” Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters.
“We have to examine all the possibilities that we have to put pressure on Iran in these areas,” he said.
EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini, who chaired the final stages of the nuclear negotiations between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US, stressed that there was no formal EU position on new sanctions.
“We’ll discuss ways in which we can keep the full implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran,” Mogherini said of the EU strategy so far. “There’s no (EU) proposal of additional sanctions against Iran.”


Egypt, Sudan seek to bolster ties after years-long tension

Updated 55 min 24 sec ago
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Egypt, Sudan seek to bolster ties after years-long tension

KHARTOUM: The leaders of Egypt and Sudan have agreed to mend their frayed ties following repeated failures to reach a deal over an upstream Nile dam being built by Ethiopia, and the revival of a longstanding dispute over a border held by Cairo and claimed by Khartoum.
In a two-day visit to Sudan, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi met with President Omar Al-Bashir as well as other Sudanese officials. They vowed to set differences aside and bolster relations, in what appears to be Egypt’s latest bid to thaw the frosty relations with its southern neighbor.
The visit was concluded on Friday. El-Sisi said he would visit Sudan again in October.