WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA Director Mike Pompeo, U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, said on Thursday he “wants to fix” the international Iran nuclear deal, with just weeks to go before a crucial deadline affecting the pact.
U.S. sanctions that were lifted under the 2015 agreement will resume unless Trump waives them again on May 12. Trump has effectively set that as a deadline for European powers to “fix the terrible flaws” of the deal.
If Trump does end the waiver it would essentially pull the United States out of the nuclear pact. Pompeo told his Senate confirmation hearing that he would still push for a tougher deal even if Trump decides not to waive the sanctions.
“There is continued interest on the part of Iran to stay in this deal. It’s in their own economic self-interest to do so,” he said.
Pompeo was a strong opponent of the nuclear pact, which was reached under Democratic President Barack Obama, when he was a Republican member of the House of Representatives.
The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was between Iran, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany. Under the deal, many sanctions on Iran were lifted in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme.
Pompeo said Iran was not “racing” to develop a nuclear weapon before the deal was finalised, and that he did not expect it would do so if the deal were to fall apart.
“There is no indication that I’m aware of that if the deal were no longer to exist that they would immediately race to a nuclear weapon today,” he said.
Pompeo, who disputed during his hearing the notion that he is a foreign policy hawk, said he believes diplomacy is the best way to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are both due to visit Washington before May 12 and Pompeo said he was “confident” they would discuss the Iran issue at length with Trump.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was still possible that Germany, France and the United States could come up with an agreement that would keep Trump from ending the waiver.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Frances Kerry