Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Italian premier asked Trump for info on Iran nuclear status

ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday his country is willing to consider a "more rigorous" stance toward Iran, adding that he recently asked U.S. President Donald Trump to share intelligence about Iran's alleged nuclear program that has triggered fresh U.S. sanctions.

Conte told reporters at a news conference in Rome that Italy would hope to coordinate any initiatives with European Union partners in the aftermath of re-imposed U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Italy isn't part of the 2015 deal under which the United States and other world powers eased economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program, but the Italian government did support the accord when it was signed.

Trump pulled out of the deal earlier this year, and this week the United States re-imposed sanctions.

Referring to U.S. intelligence on Iran's nuclear situation, Conte said, "I asked President Trump to share elements of concern." The two leaders met at the White house last week.

Pressed to be more specific, Conte replied that in his meeting with Trump: "I didn't take a specific stand. I said we are willing to evaluate the necessity to take more rigorous stances if the (nuclear) accord is shown to be ineffective."

"We are waiting to have elements" of intelligence, the premier said, adding that Italy would like to evaluate it with its EU partners.

The European Union has staunchly defended the 2015 nuclear accord, which was signed by China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States. Trump has raised the possibility of retaliation against companies which do business with Iran.

Italy traditionally has been a major trading partner with Iran. But Italian energy giant ENI earlier this year closed down its business in Iran, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles long ago reduced exposure there.

Conte said Italy will be "hyper-sensitive" to repercussions on Italian businesses and would act to "limit as much as possible the negative impact," saying there have already been signs indicating such an impact.

According to the Italy-Iran Chamber of Commerce, Italian exports to Iran in 2017 were worth 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion), with machinery being the main product to be exported, followed by power generators, chemical products and pharmaceuticals. Italian imports from Iran, mainly crude oil, were worth 3.4 billion euros ($3.9 billion).

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Colleen Barry in Milan and Simone Somekh in Rome contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to say that the pullout was earlier this year, not month.

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