23 May, 2018
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.
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.
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.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.
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