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June 12, 2018 5:03 pm

Rouhani Defends Iranian Military Presence in Syria, Raises New Doubts Over Nuclear Deal, During Call With Macron

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Reuters / Arif Hudaverdi Yaman.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday repeated the Tehran regime’s warning that it was prepared to quit the 2015 nuclear deal. During a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, Rouhani also defended Iran’s growing military presence in Syria, claiming that the Islamic Republic was engaged in “fighting terrorism.”

“We should not allow such a great achievement of diplomacy to be destroyed by unilateral measures and non-commitment of others,” Rouhani was reported as saying, in a reference to President Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the US from the JCPOA — the technical name for the Iran nuclear deal announced in Vienna in July 2015.

Indicating Iran’s concern at the revival of tough, US-led sanctions, Rouhani added, “If Iran cannot make use of the advantages envisioned in the agreement, staying in the deal will practically be impossible.”

Macron‘s office said the French president had told Rouhani that France remained committed to the nuclear deal, but Tehran needed to fully comply with its commitments.

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“The president of the Republic recalled the will of France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, to continue to implement the Vienna agreement in all its dimensions,” Macron‘s office said.

“The president informed President Rouhani of the progress in the work being done on our side,” the statement continued. “He hoped that Iran, for its part, will fulfill its obligations without any ambiguity.”

Macron‘s office confirmed a previously agreed ministerial meeting between all the remaining signatories of the deal, the European powers, China and Russia, would be held in the coming weeks in Vienna.

On the issue of Syria, Rouhani told Macron, in remarks quoted by the official IRNA news agency, that “unlike the illegitimate presence of certain states in that country, the presence of Iranian advisors in Syrian is quite legal and based on the official request of the Syrian government with an aim of fighting terrorism.” Rouhani additionally lauded “the continuation of consultations between Iran and France on establishment of calm and stability in Syria.”

The JCPOA does not address the issue of Iran’s support for terrorist proxies across the region, or the presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon — a fundamental failing of the deal, its critics have argued.

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