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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 
his liking.

   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 
missile program.

   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 
from many.

   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.


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