May 8, 2018 / 11:39 AM / 2 months ago

Jordan urges political solution to rid Mideast of nuclear arms

MURNAU, Germany (Reuters) - Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi on Tuesday warned of “dangerous repercussions” and a possible arms race in the Middle East unless a political solution was found to free the region of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

Al-Safadi spoke in Germany before U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

“We all need to work together in making sure that we solve the conflicts of the region ... and strive for a Middle East that is free of all weapons of mass destruction,” he told reporters after a meeting with leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s right-left “grand coalition” government.

“If we do not look at the political picture and ... find a way to ensure that the whole region is free of (these weapons), we’ll be looking at a lot of dangerous repercussions that will affect the region in terms of an arms race,” he said.

In March, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS News that his kingdom would “without a doubt” develop nuclear weapons if Iran, Riyadh’s arch foe, did so.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, although it neither confirms nor denies possessing atomic weapons.

Trump said he pulled out of the 2015 agreement partly because it does not address Iran’s ballistic missile programme or its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, and does not permanently prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Germany, France and Britain, in a joint statement, decried the U.S. decision and pledged to uphold the nuclear deal together with Tehran despite Washington’s departure. They called on the United States to refrain from taking steps that would prevent other countries from upholding the accord.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran aimed to continue to comply with the deal’s terms, and would swiftly reach out to the other signatories - Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - to keep it in place.

Volker Kauder, head of Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, said continued dialogue was needed to avoid isolating Iran.

“That would only further exacerbate the situation in the Middle East,” Kauder told reporters in Murnau, where Merkel and other leaders of the coalition government are gathered for a retreat.

Al-Safadi also expressed concern about the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on May 14 and the possible consequences.

“Jerusalem should be the capital of an independent Palestinian state in the borders of 1967. We should avoid everything that calls stability into question,” he said.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; writing by Andrea Shalal; editing by William Maclean and Lisa Shumaker

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