LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday he would favor replacing the Iranian nuclear deal with an accord that Washington could support.
Johnson's proposal for a "Trump deal" that would tackle Tehran's aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East came just hours before Britain, France and Germany triggered a dispute mechanism against Iran for violating the 2015 accord.
"If we are going to get rid of it (the nuclear deal), let's replace it and let's replace it with the Trump deal," the prime minister told BBC television in an interview.
"I think that would be a great way forward," he said, without giving further details on this would entail.
Foreign minister Dominic Raab told parliament that while Johnson's remarks did not represent a policy shift Britain was willing to work with the US and European partners to build a broader initiative which would address not just Iran's nuclear ambitions but its destabilising activity in the region.
"We believe, as of now, that the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is the best available deal for restraining Iran's nuclear ambitions and we want Iran to come back into full compliance," Raab told parliament.
"Equally .... the prime minister, the United States and our European partners are fully open to a broader initiative which would address not just the nuclear concerns but the broader concerns around the destabilising activity that we've seen recently."
The US said on Tuesday that it supported the Europeans lodging of the complaint.
European powers have been trying to salvage the JCPOA following the 2018 decision by President Donald Trump to pull the United States out.
But Tehran has wound down its compliance since then, prompting the three European parties to the deal to trigger a provision intended to hold Iran to account.
Britain, France and Germany said in a letter to the European Union's foreign policy chief Tuesday they had no choice but to trigger the deal's “dispute mechanism,” given Iran's ongoing transgressions.
The three said they rejected Tehran's argument that Iran was justified in violating the deal because the United States broke the agreement by pulling out unilaterally in 2018.
"We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran’s actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments,'' the countries said in a joint statement.
The JCPOA has a provision that allows a party to claim significant non-compliance by another party before a joint commission.
If the issue is not resolved by the commission, it then goes to an advisory board and eventually to the UN Security Council, which could reimpose sanctions.
Iran's foreign ministry warned of a "serious and strong response" to the European move. "If the Europeans... seek to abuse (this process), they must also be prepared to accept the consequences," it said.
Raab said Britain, the US and European powers had discussed at the G7 summit in Biarritz last year the possibility of a "broader deal" that had Washington's support.
"It's not just President Trump but also President Macron (of France) who have argued for a broader deal with Iran," he said.
Trump last week called on signatories to the JCPOA to withdraw from the agreement, and Johnson said he understood Washington's concerns.
"From the American perspective it's a flawed agreement, it expires, plus it was negotiated by (former) President Obama," the premier said.
"President Trump is a great deal-maker - by his own account and many others. Let's work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead."
Johnson's comments come after the a further diplomatic fallout between Iran and the UK over the arrest of the British ambassador Rob Macaire in Tehran on Saturday.
Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador to London on Monday in protest and sought assurances that it would not happen again and that embassy staff would be safe.
“The arrest of our Ambassador to Iran was a flagrant violation of international law and it is important that Iran understands how seriously we take this matter," Middle East minister Andrew Murrison said.
Iran claimed Macaire had been attending an illegal protest, but the ambassador said he had merely gone along to a vigil for victims of a Ukrainian plane shot down by the Iranian military. The incident killed 176 people.
“We reiterate the importance of a full and transparent investigation into Ukraine International Airlines flight 752," Murrison said. "The loss of life in the crash was a tragedy and we express our condolences to the people of Iran as they grieve those who died.”
*With AFP and Reuters