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Aides Said To Be Pushing Trump To Extend Iran Sanctions Waiver

U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump’s top aides are urging him to extend relief from economic sanctions for Iran, but the president remains reluctant and has not decided on his next move, U.S. media are reporting.

The Associated Press and Reuters on January 10 cited U.S. officials and others familiar with administration policy as saying that Trump and key advisers will meet on January 11 to finalize the decision, which will be revealed on January 12.

The reports said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster were pressing Trump to sign the waver granting Tehran relief from sanctions as part of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

Trump on January 12 is facing another quarterly deadline for certifying whether Iran is in compliance with the deal, which requires Tehran to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The president is a fierce critic of the accord and refused to certify Iran's compliance with the deal at the last deadline in October. Still, he has so far stopped short of withdrawing the United States from the accord.

Iran on January 10 warned it will pull out of the nuclear deal if the United States leaves.

"In case the Americans exit the deal, we will react in no time flat," Majid Tacht Rawanchi, an adviser to President Hassan Rohani, was quoted as saying by Iran's state-run IRNA news agency.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of the European Union and Iran have scheduled talks in Brussels on January 11 to focus on preserving the agreement amid threat of a U.S. pullout.

The other signatories to the accord -- Britain, China, Germany, France, and Russia -- and the EU continue to support the agreement.

Meeting Zarif in Moscow on January 10, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov vowed that Moscow will defend the agreement as a "key contribution to the regional stability and nuclear nonproliferation.”

To counter Trump’s reluctance to waive sanctions, sources said, top aides are proposing that the president instead impose new targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people related to its ballistic-missile and nuclear programs.

The sources said the new sanctions could hit some people and companies given relief under the 2015 agreement -- a move that would increase pressure on Tehran but would not mean a pullout from the accord.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters