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France Worries New US Sanctions on Iran Could Hurt Middle East


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank, in Washington, May 21, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
France Worries New US Sanctions on Iran Could Hurt Middle East
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The foreign minister of France has warned that the United States risks more problems in the Middle East if it places new restrictions on Iran.

The statement comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new policy goals for U.S. dealings with Iran. On Monday, Pompeo described demands for any new nuclear deal with Iran that includes the United States. And on Tuesday, the secretary of state promised to bring home American hostages now held in Iran.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks with the press before meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier in May..
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks with the press before meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier in May..

However, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio that new sanctions on Iran would not improve dialogue.

Instead, he said, new restrictions would help Iran’s conservatives and weaken President Hassan Rouhani.

Le Drian said, “This posture risks endangering the region more.”

Pompeo gave what American media have described as his first major foreign policy address on Monday.

In it, he gave a list of nuclear activities that Iran must give up. Among the demands he noted, Pompeo said Iran must give up work on nuclear weapons “in perpetuity” – in other words, forever.

He said Iran must stop uranium enrichment and not seek the processing of plutonium. In addition, Iran must provide the United Nations nuclear agency “unqualified access to all sites throughout the country.”

Pompeo also said that Iran must stop its support of militant groups in the Middle East. These include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian group Hamas, Houthi militias in Yemen and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

If Iran meets the new demands, Pompeo said the U.S. was prepared “to support the modernization, reintegration of the Iranian economy into the international economic system.”

But if Iran does not change its actions, he warned, the U.S. “will apply unprecedented financial pressure” on Iran.

On Tuesday, Pompeo expanded on another demand: that Iran must release all U.S. citizens “as well as citizens of our partners and allies.”

The secretary of state added that “the entire United States government is using all possible means to gain the hostages’ release.”

Iranian President Rouhani dismissed the new U.S. position in a statement published in Iranian state media on Monday. He said, “Countries have their independence.”

U.S. withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

Earlier in May, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. The agreement was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Under the plan, Iran agreed to place limits on its nuclear development in exchange for the removal of many economic restrictions.

Among the hostages are Baquer Namazi, pictured left, and his son Siamak, right. They were convicted by an Iranian court in 2016 of collaborating with a hostile power.
Among the hostages are Baquer Namazi, pictured left, and his son Siamak, right. They were convicted by an Iranian court in 2016 of collaborating with a hostile power.

​However, Pompeo noted on Monday that although sanctions on Iran were greatly reduced, the country had failed to free American detainees.

Pompeo compared the situation to the “frosty relations” between the U.S. and North Korea only a few months ago. However, North Korea recently released three Korean-Americans held in the country.

The families of some of the American hostages are worried about the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. They are concerned it will make it harder for their family members to be returned home.

The French foreign minister’s warning is similar to comments from other European leaders. France is among the nations that negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Other parties to the deal – Britain, China, Russia and Germany – have expressed a desire to keep the existing agreement in place.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

Nike Ching and Chris Hannas reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional material from VOA News. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dialogue –n. discussion between two or more sides

posture –n. an attitude or position a person or group has toward a subject

region –n. an area in a country or the world

perpetuity –n. a state of continuing without end

reintegration –n. a condition of being brought together with others again

unprecedented –adj. not happening in the past

frosty –adj. cold, frozen

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