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Trump Reportedly Decides To Extend U.S. Sanctions Relief For Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump concludes his remarks at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville, Tennessee, January 8, 2018

Media are reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to extend sanctions relief granted to Iran under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, leaving the accord intact for now.

Citing people familiar with Trump's decision late on January 11, Reuters, The New York Times, and Bloomberg reported that the White House is expected to announce Trump's decision on January 12.

The media reports say that while Trump decided to continue waiving U.S. sanctions on Iran's central bank and oil industry, in keeping with U.S. obligations under the nuclear deal in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear activities, he also has decided to impose new, targeted sanctions on Iran.

The New York Times reported that Trump may also give the U.S. Congress and European allies a deadline to either improve the deal to his liking or he will pull the United States out of it.

Administration officials have said Trump was reluctant to uphold the U.S. side of the deal, which he has fiercely opposed and criticized. But many of his top advisers urged him not to pull out of the accord, and he was under heavy pressure from European allies to keep honoring it.

Earlier on January 11, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged “all parties” to continue complying with the deal, which she said “is working.”

Speaking after talks in Brussels with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif -- as well as the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Britain -- Mogherini said the nuclear deal "is delivering on its main goal" of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The European Union remains committed to supporting the full and effective implementation of the agreement, including making sure that the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions has a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, including benefits for the Iranian people," Mogherini said.

French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian said after the Brussels meeting that it was "essential that all parties should continue to abide by the deal." He called on the United States to respect the accord, too, saying "there is no particular reason for any rupture."

"There is no indication today that could call into doubt Iranian respect of the agreement," Le Drian said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said nobody has "so far produced a better alternative…as a way of preventing the Iranians from going ahead with the acquisition of their military nuclear capability."

Targeted Sanctions?

Trump made a decision to stick with the nuclear deal, for now, after meeting with his national security advisers late on January 11 at the White House.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said earlier in the day that he expects Trump to also impose new sanctions on Iran.

"We continue to look at them. We've rolled them out, and I think you can expect there will be more sanctions coming," he told reporters, without being specific.

The New York Times reported that some of the new sanctions Trump will announce will target Iranian government officials involved in the crackdown on antigovernment protests this month, as well as those deemed to have violated human rights.

In a phone call on January 11, France's President Emmanuel Macron stressed to Trump the importance of adhering to the nuclear deal, the French presidency said.

Macron "recalled France's determination in favor of a strict application of the agreement and the importance of its respect by all of its signatories," a statement said.

The White House said Trump underscored to Macron that Iran must cease its "destabilizing activity" in the Middle East.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Washington was right to address other issues that have raised concerns about Iran's regional ambitions.

But he said the Trump administration should consider the nuclear agreement as an issue that is separate from Iran's ballistic-missile program and its role in Syria's civil war, where Tehran supports President Bashar al-Assad's military forces.

Gabriel said the EU is opening a new line of communication with Iran to talk about nonnuclear issues because Iran has a "difficult" role in the Middle East that must be discussed separately from the 2015 nuclear deal.

'Sending A Message'

European powers at the Brussels meeting reassured Iran's foreign minister on January 11 that they remain committed to the nuclear deal.

Trump's own top advisers reportedly had urged him to stick with the deal and keep sanctions relief in place, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Moreover, Iran has warned it, too, will pull out of the nuclear deal if the United States withdraws.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Richard Jozwiak in Brussels, Reuters, AP, AFP, Bloomberg, The New York Times, and dpa