January 8, 2020 / 4:36 PM / 16 days ago

PM Johnson urges Trump to de-escalate Iran situation

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed Iranian missile attacks on Wednesday, even as the two leaders separately offered different approaches on how to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (not pictured) inside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain January 8, 2020. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS

The two allied leaders spoke in a call before Trump, in a speech, backed away from any military response toward Tehran in retaliation for the strikes on military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, Johnson’s spokesman and the White House said.

The Iranian strikes came after the United States killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad last week. Trump said no U.S. troops were killed in Tehran’s strikes.

Johnson, in the call, urged Trump to de-escalate the situation urgently to avoid further conflict, Johnson’s spokesman said.

“The two leaders discussed the current situation in the Middle East and agreed to continue close coordination in support of shared national security interests,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. He gave no other details.

Still the leaders, whose countries are close allies, separately backed different approaches to Iran.

Johnson told the UK’s parliament earlier on Wednesday the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and six world powers, including the United States and the United Kingdom, remained the best option to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and adopted a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, but Johnson told UK lawmakers the agreement “remains a shell into which we can put substance again.”

In his remarks at the White House on Wednesday, Trump called the pact negotiated under his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama “very defective.”

“The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality,” Trump said.

“They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal - or JCPOA - and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.”

Reporting Elizabeth Piper; Writing by Kylie MacLellan and Susan Heavey; Editing by David Milliken and Andrea Ricci

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