Macron calls on US to engage world, reject nationalism in joint meeting of Congress

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called on the United States not to abandon a nuclear agreement with Iran until a broader international accord is reached that addresses all remaining U.S. and European concerns about Iran.

Capping a three-day visit to the United States in which he urged President Donald Trump to stay in the Iran pact, Macron told a joint meeting of Congress the current deal was not perfect but must remain in place until a replacement was forged.

"It is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns and very important concerns,"Macron said. "But we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead. That's my position."

Trump has often vowed to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six major powers. He will decide by May 12 whether to restore U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, which could be a first step to ending the deal.

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The two leaders pledged during Macron's visit to seek stronger measures to contain Iran but Trump made no commitments to stay in the nuclear deal, negotiated by former President Barack Obama. Trump also threatened Tehran with retaliation if it restarted its nuclear program.

Macron has sought a new approach that would see the United States and Europe agree to address any Iranian nuclear activity after 2025, tackle Iran's ballistic missile program and seek a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

"What I want to do and what we decided together with your president is that we can work on a more comprehensive deal addressing all these concerns," Macron said, adding that France remains committed to the bottom line goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

More on Macron's visit to the U.S.

"Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapon. Not now not in five years, not in 10 years, never," he told clapping lawmakers.

In a broad speech, Macron also urged U.S. lawmakers to reject unilateralism and remain engaged with the world, saying modern economic and security challenges must be a shared responsibility.

Macron denounced protectionism and nationalism and said the United States should step up its engagement with the world - a direct challenge to Trump's calls for withdrawal from the Paris climate pact and international trade agreements.

"The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it," he said.

He said he was confident the United States would eventually come back into the Paris climate accord. “Let us work together in order to make our planet great again," he said. "I believe in building a better future for our children, which requires offering them a planet that is still habitable in 25 years."

Macron is the eighth French president to address a joint meeting of Congress, and the first since Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan's office said. The last foreign leader to address a joint meeting was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.