Iran Deal to Dominate Tillerson Agenda 01/21 09:55
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seeking British and
French support for tough new penalties against Iran and preventing a U.S.
withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Tillerson on Sunday began a nearly weeklong trip to Europe, and a U.S.
official said Iran was expected to dominate Tillerson's talks in London and
Paris, the first two stops.
Tillerson left Washington as the government shutdown enters its second day.
The State Department says he's conducting foreign relations that are essential
to national security.
Britain and France are parties to the 2015 Iran deal that President Donald
Trump has warned he will walk away from this spring unless fixes are made to
The official said Tillerson's intent is "to close the gaps" in the accord
that gave Iran billions in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear
program, and to explore more ways to counter Iranian behavior in Syria, Lebanon
and Yemen. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss Tillerson's
plans before the trip, and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, Trump pledged to stop waiving U.S. sanctions unless the
Europeans agreed to strengthen its terms by consenting to a side deal that
would effectively eliminate provisions that allow Iran to gradually resume some
advanced atomic work. Trump also wants tighter restrictions on Iran's ballistic
Iran has rejected any renegotiation. Britain, France and the other European
party to the accord, Germany, have expressed some willingness to work with the
U.S. to prevent the pact's collapse by discussing measures that would
supplement its conditions.
A U.S. withdrawal probably would scrap the agreement, a chief foreign policy
achievement for President Barack Obama, by reimposing a broad range of
sanctions that isolate Iran from the international financial system. Iran has
said it will no longer be bound by the terms of the deal if that happens.
Tillerson, on his eighth trip to Europe since becoming secretary of state a
year ago, planned to meet with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and
national security adviser Mark Sedwill on Monday. He also intended to visit the
new U.S. Embassy in the British capital. Trump had been expected to preside
over a formal ribbon-cutting for the embassy next month but canceled plans to
visit Britain, citing the billion-dollar cost of the embassy and lambasting the
Obama administration for its location in a less desirable area than the old
site in London's posh Mayfair district. That explanation was met by skepticism
The decision to move the embassy was made by President George W. Bush's
administration in 2008 after it determined the old facility in Grosvenor Square
had uncorrectable security issues. The new embassy was constructed with the
proceeds from sales of U.S. government properties and leases in London. The new
embassy, in the former industrial area of Nine Elms on the south side of the
River Thames, opened its doors on Jan. 16 but is still not 100 percent
operational and will not be ready for a grand opening while Tillerson is in
London, the official said.
From London, Tillerson will travel to Paris for talks on many of the same
subjects with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
He also planned to sign a new international agreement that calls for holding
accountable anyone who uses chemical weapons. It's aimed primarily at Syria.
Tillerson was scheduled to join Trump in Zurich and Davos, Switzerland for
the World Economic Forum and meetings with world leaders before wrapping up his
trip in Poland. But Trump's budget director says the White House is taking the
president's participation at that meeting, as well as the planned attendance of
much of his Cabinet in Davos, "on a day-by day basis" because of the government
In Warsaw, Trump will reaffirm U.S. commitment to Poland's security in
meetings with the president, prime minister and foreign minister. He also plans
to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration
camp at Auschwitz by laying a wreath at the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto
uprising, in which Jews rose up in 1943 against German forces that were to send
the ghetto's last survivors to death camps.