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French President Emmanuel Macron, right, meets with US businessman Michael Bloomberg, left, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Bill Gates, British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, third left, and other philanthropists at the Elysee Palace in Pari, Tuesday, on Dec. 12, 2017. More than 50 world leaders are gathering in Paris for a summit that President Emmanuel Macron hopes will give new momentum to the fight against global warming, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate accord. (Christophe Archambault, Pool via AP)

EU envoy says Iran deal will not ‘fall apart’ without the US

BEIJING (AP) — The Iran nuclear deal will not “fall apart” despite the United States withdrawing from the landmark accord, the European Union’s representative to China said Wednesday.

The EU believes “that this is an agreement that belongs to the international community,” Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said during a press briefing in Beijing. “This is not an agreement that will fall apart if you just walk away.”

Negotiated by the Obama administration, the 2015 Iran accord included EU members Germany, France and Britain, and had lifted most U.S. and international economic sanctions against Iran. In exchange, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program, making it impossible to produce a bomb and establishing rigorous inspections.

President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew the U.S. from the deal Tuesday and restored harsh sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said in a speech Wednesday that his country will evaluate the EU’s ability to protect the nuclear accord.

Speaking at an event to mark Europe Day, Schweisgut also urged Beijing to create a “level playing field” for European businesses operating in the country, warning that failure to do so could affect foreign investment.

Since 2013, Beijing and the EU have been negotiating a comprehensive investment agreement that seeks to improve transparency and reciprocity. As trade tensions simmer between China and the United States, Schweisgut said he hopes “the current international context” will encourage China to move forward with their talks.

“The level playing field we have been arguing for a long time needs to be established, otherwise I’m afraid that there may be a change in mood and atmosphere which we are already seeing emerging,” he said.

Schweisgut commended Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the Boao business forum last month and said he hopes China’s commitment to globalization will “translate into real action.”

The chairman of the European Parliament’s international trade committee, on a visit to China this week, criticized the Trump administration’s approach to addressing the trade imbalance with China, saying it undermined the system of rules that govern global trade.

“The multilateral trading system is under threat as one big partner worldwide is undermining this global trading system with tariffs and rule of power,” Bernd Lange told reporters in Beijing.

Trump has threatened higher tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese goods in response to complaints that Beijing violates its free-trade commitments by stealing or pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology.

“These bilateral negotiations are based on partnership and should not be based on pressure as the U.S. is trying to get their interest through,” he said.

In response to questions about China’s human rights record, Schweisgut said the EU will continue to raise the cases of Gui Minhai, a Swedish bookseller detained in China, and Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Though she has never been charged with a crime, Liu Xia has been confined under guard at her Beijing home following her husband’s arrest in 2010 with virtually no contact with the outside world.

Rights groups and foreign countries have called for her to be allowed to leave China and Germany said earlier this month it would welcome her after a recording was released of her crying in desperation.

Gui and Liu’s cases are not “fading away,” Schweisgut said, noting that human rights are an “integral part” of the EU’s relationship with China.

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader chastised President Donald Trump on Wednesday over his decision to pull America out of the 2015 nuclear deal, while lawmakers lit a paper U.S. flag on fire inside parliament, shouting, “Death to America!”

The government backlash reflected broad public anger in Iran over Trump’s decision, which threatens to destroy the landmark agreement. While Iranian officials, including the parliament speaker, say they hope Europe will work with them to preserve the deal, many are pessimistic.

In comments before school teachers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Trump: “You cannot do a damn thing!” The exhortation from Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, follows a pattern of Iranian leaders declaring their nation’s ability to resist foreign pressure or interference.

Khamenei described Trump’s speech Tuesday announcing his decision as having “over 10 lies,” without elaborating on them. He also said Trump’s remarks threatened both Iran’s people and its theocratic government.

“The body of this man, Trump, will turn to ashes and become the food of the worms and ants, while the Islamic Republic continues to stand,” Khamenei said.

Iranian parliament members burned a paper US flag and a copy of the Iran nuclear agreement. They were reacting to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the agreement. (May 9)

Earlier Wednesday, the lawmakers, including a Shiite cleric, held the flaming flag alight as their colleagues joined their chants. They also burned a piece of paper representing the nuclear deal and stomped on the papers’ ashes.

While U.S. flag-burning is common in Iran and harsh criticism of America has been a staple of Iranian parliamentary politics for years, it was the first time political observers could remember anything being burned inside the parliament itself.

The 2015 agreement imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of most U.S. and international sanctions.

However, the deal came with time limits and did not address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its support for militant groups across the region branded as terrorists by the West. Trump has repeatedly pointed to those omissions in referring to the accord as the “worst deal ever.” Proponents of the deal have said those time limits were meant to encourage more discussion with Iran in the future that could eventually address other concerns.

Late Tuesday night, President Hassan Rouhani said he’d be sending Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the countries still in the deal — China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Iran hopes the European Union will pass laws to protect European firms from any potential U.S. sanctions. EU officials have suggested they’ll do what they can to salvage the agreement.

Still, Rouhani made a point of stressing that Iran, at any time, could resume its nuclear program.

“If necessary, we can begin our industrial enrichment without any limitations,” the Iranian leader said. “Until implementation of this decision, we will wait for some weeks and will talk with our friends and allies and other signatories of the nuclear deal, who signed it and who will remain loyal to it. Everything depends on our national interests.”

After the flag burning, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said responsibility for saving the deal fell on the EU and other world powers still in the accord.

“The period is only a window in which the EU can prove if it has enough weight for settling international issues,” he said.

Larijani also urged the country’s nuclear agency to prepare for “resumption of all aspects of nuclear activities.”

Khamenei questioned whether Europe had the will or the ability to save the nuclear deal.

“I do not trust these three countries,” he said, apparently referring to France, Germany and Britain. “If you succeed in getting guarantees (from them), then, no problem, go ahead. If you cannot, then it is not possible to continue in this way.”

Many Iranians are worried about what Trump’s decision could mean for their country.

The Iranian rial is already trading on the black market at 66,000 to the dollar, despite a government-set rate of 42,000 rials. Many say they have not seen any benefits from the nuclear deal.

Iran’s poor economy and unemployment sparked nationwide protests in December and January that saw at least 25 people killed and, reportedly, nearly 5,000 arrested.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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AP coverage of the Iran nuclear deal: https://apnews.com/tag/Irannuclear .

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