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European ministers set to visit Israel in bid to salvage Iran nuclear deal

Trump in January set a 120-day deadline for US lawmakers and European allies to "fix" his predecessor Barack Obama's main foreign policy achievement of the Iran nuclear deal or face a US exit
STR (afp/AFP/File)
Trump said that 2015 deal between Iran and major powers must be 'fixed' by May 12

French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart Heiko Mass are heading to Israel and the West Bank early next week in a bid to discuss European efforts to prevent the United States from pulling out from the Iran nuclear agreement, the Times of Israel reported on Saturday.

Mass will meet will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He will also make a stop at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum for a meeting with Holocaust survivors.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has intensively lobbied Trump against the nuclear pact, which he sees as merely delaying Tehran's ability to produce a nuclear warhead.

In their White House meeting earlier in March, Netanyahu said he told the president that "the nuclear agreement with Iran must be either totally fixed or totally canceled" and that the two discussed the matter at length.

CHANDAN KHANNA (AFP)

This is the first visit to Iran by an official from one of the three European countries co-signing the agreement (France, Germany, Great Britain) - with Russia, China, and the United States - since President Donald Trump delivered an ultimatum in January.

Trump said that 2015 deal between Iran and major powers must be "fixed" by May 12 or the United States will walk away. He believes the deal is not in the US’s national interests and that the sunset clauses will “give” Iran nuclear weapons.

Trump wants to expand access for international nuclear inspectors, increase the limits on Iran’s nuclear activity and penalize Iran for ballistic missiles.

The European parties to the agreement are desperate to save it and have been scrambling to find ways to persuade Trump not to rip it up. Diplomats have even discussed imposing fresh sanctions, in order to satisfy the presidents eagerness to jettison the pact, reached by his predecessor Barack Obama.

However Senator Bob Corker told CBS's 'Face The Nation' on Sunday that he thinks Europe will fail to clinch a new arrangement with Iran and that Trump will finally withdraw the US from the deal.

MANDEL NGAN (AFP)

"I think the president likely will move away from it, unless ... our European counterparts really come together on a framework. And it doesn't feel to me that they are," Corker said, cautioning that the situation could change as the deadline itself -- May 12 -- nears.

When asked by the host if "you think the president's going to pull out of that Iran deal on May 12th?" he responded "I do. I do."

By sacking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replacing him with hardliner former CIA chief Mike Pompeo who shares with Trump a similar view in Iran, analysts argue that the president will be an even tougher negotiator.

Tehran has rejected the notion of any modification of the 2015 nuclear deal, and has the backing of all of the partners to the agreement.

The International atomic energy agency has repeatedly said that Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement.

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