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Tillerson: U.S. working to remain in Iran nuke deal

By Allen Cone
Tillerson: U.S. working to remain in Iran nuke deal
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears at the White House on Thursday during announcement of the nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen as the new Department of Homeland Security secretary. On Sunday, Tillerson said he is counting on the United States staying in the Iran nuclear deal despite opposition by President Donald Trump. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Two days after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to pull the country out of the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the United States is trying to remain in the accord.

"We're going to stay in," Tillerson said in an interview on CNN's State of the Union. "We're going to work with our European partners and allies to see if we can't address these concerns."

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On Friday, Trump said he won't certify that Iran is complying with the terms of a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement. Every 90 days, the U.S. president must certify that Tehran is adhering to the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act. It's now up to Congress to decide whether the United States will decide whether to abide by the deal or reimpose sanctions on Tehran, which would effectively amount to the United States pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

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Tillerson has said Iran is in "technical compliance" with the deal now, but had in the past committed technical violations of the pact.

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"They have remedied the violations, which then brings them back into technical compliance," Tillerson said, adding Trump is concerned about the nation's ballistic missile program and support for groups adversarial to the United States throughout the Middle East.

"What the president wants is a more comprehensive strategy," Tillerson said.

He said he anticipates that might require a new deal.

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"Let's see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement," Tillerson said. "But that, as I said, may come in a secondary agreement, as well."

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, called it a "weak deal that is being weakly monitored."

"The president has made clear that he will not permit this deal to provide cover for what we know is a horrible regime to develop a nuclear weapon," McMaster said in an interview on Fox News Sunday.

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McMaster also said the European allies already support much more rigorous reinforcement of the deal and additional monitoring.

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Tillerson said the Trump administration wants to prevent a situation similar to the one on the Korean peninsula.

"We don't want to find ourselves in that same position with Iran," Tillerson said.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, agreed with Tillerson.

"The whole reason we are looking at this Iran agreement is because of North Korea," Haley said on NBC's Meet the Press.

Tillerson said on CNN that diplomatic efforts involving North Korea "will continue until the first bomb drops."

"The president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically," Tillerson said. "He is not seeking to go to war."

Several weeks ago, Tillerson announced from Beijing that he had direct lines of communication with North Korea. Shortly after Tillerson's comments, Trump posted on Twitter he thought Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea.

Tillerson denied a claim by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that he had been "publicly castrated" as the nation's top diplomat.

"I checked, I'm fully intact," Tillerson responded.

Tillerson again declined to clearly say he hadn't called Trump "a moron," according to an earlier NBC report.

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"I call him Mr. President," Tillerson said. "He makes the decisions. I try to go out and carry them out."

He said: "These are the games of Washington. ... I'm not playing."

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