WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said Iran would face bigger problems if Tehran restarts its nuclear program and called the nuclear accord with Iran "insane."
"They will have bigger problems than they have ever had before," Trump said of Iran at the start of a White House meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who told reporters he wants to contain Iran in the region
Trump's statement came in response to a warning directed at him by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday to stay in the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, or face "severe consequences," as other signatories stepped up efforts to save the agreement.
Trump has previously said that unless European allies fix what he has called "terrible flaws"
in the deal by May 12, he will restore US economic sanctions on Iran, which would be a severe blow to the pact.
The other powers that signed the deal - Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France - have all said they want to preserve the agreement that curbed Iran's nuclear program in return for lifting most sanctions.
"I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will firmly react," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
"If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences," he told a cheering crowd of thousands gathered in the city of Tabriz. "Iran is prepared for all possible situations," he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron is in Washington, trying to convince Trump not to tear up the accord.
“For nuclear, what do you have as a better option? I don’t see it,” Macron told Fox News on Sunday
. “What is your plan B? I don’t have any Plan B for nuclear against Iran.”
Advocates of the agreement hope that Macron, whom Trump has come to admire and respect, may be able to convince the US president to stick with the accord. These talks may be Macron’s final chance.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart that Moscow and Beijing would try to block any US attempt to sabotage the nuclear deal.
Iran has warned that it will ramp up its nuclear program if the deal collapses.
The European signatories of Iran's nuclear deal with major powers should convince US President Donald Trump not to exit the accord as there is no "plan B" for the agreement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Tweeted on Monday.
"It is either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more important to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.
Trump administration officials say the president is approaching Iran policy holistically and that he refuses to separate out Iran’s nuclear ambitions from its regional designs. But Macron has said the nuclear deal is a technical document that accomplishes the limited goal of capping Tehran’s enrichment work and provides insight into the bowels of the program, which are scattered across Iran.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.