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French President Macron Says Iran 'Shall Never Possess Any Nuclear Weapons'

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron says Iran "shall never possess any nuclear weapons."

Speaking to lawmakers in a joint meeting of Congress Wednesday, Macron said the "terrorist threat is even more dangerous when it is combined with the nuclear proliferation threats."

"We must therefore be stricter than ever with countries seeking to acquire the nuclear bomb," Macron said. "As for Iran, our objective is clear: Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now, not in five years, not in 10 years, never."

The French president said we should not abandon the Iran nuclear deal without having something "more substantial instead."

"That is my position," he said.

He said "our nations have suffered wrenching losses simply because of our values and our taste for freedom."

"That is why we stand together in Syria today to fight together against these terrorist groups who seek to destroy everything for which we stand," he added.

In his speech, Macron drew on the shared history and "special bond" of U.S.-French relations, saying the two nations "have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance and equal rights."

"We are surrounded today with the images, portraits and symbols that represents our participation with heart in hand in the story of this great hand from the very beginning," said Macron. "We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance and equal rights."

Macron also talked about the Paris climate agreement, saying he was confident the U.S. will rejoin the accord.

"Let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our Earth," he said.

He added that if earth's climate continues to warm, "there is no Planet B."

Macron was speaking Wednesday as part of his visit to the United States. It was the first time a president from France has addressed Congress in more than a decade, but follows a tradition of foreign leaders appearing at the U.S. Capitol.

Hosting Macron for the first state visit of his administration, culminating in a lavish dinner Tuesday night, President Donald Trump remained firm in his criticism of past and enduring American undertakings in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East.

But he appeared open to the French president's pleas to maintain U.S. involvement in Syria — and expressed openness to negotiating a new agreement with Iran.

As Trump weighs withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear accord, he issued a warning to Iran Tuesday against restarting its nuclear program.

"They will have bigger problems than they've ever had before," Trump said Tuesday.

At a joint White House news conference, he appeared to be more in line with Macron's push for a longer-term U.S. presence in Syria. Trump, who announced weeks ago that he would withdraw American troops, said Macron reinforced the idea of a potential Iranian takeover of territory liberated from the Islamic State group.

"We'll be coming home," Trump said, "but we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint."

Macron told Trump that together the U.S. and France would defeat terrorism, curtail weapons of mass destruction in North Korea and Iran, and act together on behalf of the planet.

That last point was a reference to Macron's work to revive the U.S. role in the Paris climate accord. Trump canceled any U.S. involvement in the agreement and has said his focus is on American jobs.

Differences aside, Trump and Macron lavished praise — and even a pair of kisses — on each other Tuesday.

"It's an honor to call you my friend," Trump said, after predicting Macron would be a historic leader of France.

In one light moment, Trump sought to demonstrate some of the personal chemistry he claimed. The U.S. president brushed something off Macron's suit jacket, saying, "We have a very special relationship; in fact, I'll get that little piece of dandruff off. We have to make him perfect — he is perfect."

The meetings followed a pomp-filled welcome ceremony on the South Lawn. Highlights included a 21-gun salute and Melania Trump's wide-brim white hat, which drew more comments than all the rest of the pageantry.

The social highlight of Macron's visit was Tuesday night's formal state dinner at the White House. More than 130 guests dined on rack of lamb and nectarine tart and enjoyed an after-dinner performance by the Washington National Opera.

As he gave a toast at the dinner, Trump hailed the bonds between the U.S. and France, saying, "May our friendship grow even deeper, may our kinship grow even stronger and may our sacred liberty never die."

As for substantive issues, one of Macron's main objectives during his three-day visit to Washington was to persuade Trump to stay in the Iran accord, which is aimed at restricting Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

Trump is skeptical of the pact's effectiveness — "it's insane, it's ridiculous," he said Tuesday — but he declined to say whether he would withdraw the U.S. by the May 12 deadline he has set.

He reminded his French counterpart of what he sees as flaws in the agreement, which he said fails to address ballistic missiles or Iran's activities in Yemen or Syria.

Macron told reporters that he and Trump would look at the Iran deal "in a wider regional context," taking into account the situation in Syria.

"We have a common objective, we want to make sure there's no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region.

We now need to find the right path forward," Macron said.

Trump suggested he was open to "doing something" beyond the current Iran agreement as long as it was done "strongly."

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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