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U.N. Security Council Meeting Highlights Divisions On How To Deal With Iran

Sep 26, 2018
Originally published on September 29, 2018 11:12 am
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President Trump chaired a meeting of the U.N. Security Council earlier today. That meeting highlighted the divisions among world powers over how to deal with Iran. Trump administration officials have been talking tough about Iran all week and defending the U.S. decision to pull out of the nuclear deal. But America's European allies are still trying to salvage it, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The five veto holders on the Security Council negotiated that deal to limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. But Trump withdrew the U.S. from it earlier this year and is reimposing sanctions, a message he hammered home as he sat in the Security Council president's seat today.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All U.S. nuclear-related sanctions will be in full force by early November. They will be in full force. After that, the United States will pursue additional sanctions, tougher than ever before, to counter the entire range of Iran's malign conduct.

KELEMEN: French President Emmanuel Macron said there needs to be a long-term strategy, not just sanctions and containment. President Trump heard a lot of council members defend the Iran nuclear deal as he presided over the meeting, which was subdued with members reading written statements and no back-and-forth debate. It came a day after Trump told the U.N. he rejects what he calls the ideology of globalism. Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, was still responding to that as she entered the council today, saying Iran is one of those challenges that needs a multilateralist approach.

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MARGOT WALLSTROM: We have tried sanctions over the years, over decades. We tried sanctions. We tried isolation, and it only gave the most conservative forces in Iran more power.

KELEMEN: Wallstrom says the deal is working, adding that European countries are figuring out ways to shield their companies from U.S. sanctions.

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WALLSTROM: It also represents a lot of commercial value and trade and money and jobs in our respective countries. And we also have to help all those that have invested and believed in this opening.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticized the Europeans for this. His point person on Iran, Brian Hook, told reporters this week that businesses have gotten the message.

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BRIAN HOOK: That's why you see major companies from Europe to Asia getting out of Iran and terminating business. And so companies have a choice to either do business in Iran or in the United States.

KELEMEN: And few companies will choose Iran over the U.S., Hook says. Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, told a news conference near the U.N. that the sanctions violate a U.N. Security Council resolution backing the nuclear deal. He said Iran will keep up its end of the bargain as long as others do, too. He spoke through an interpreter.

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PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI: (Through interpreter) Our decision is to keep working with other countries. In my opinion, for any country that can trample upon U.S. sanctions, this would be a great point of pride because of the illegal nature of those sanctions.

KELEMEN: And Rouhani said he believes that it is the Trump administration, not Iran, that's isolated. He said this was on display in the Security Council meeting, one he was not invited to attend. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.