Iran Rules Out Direct US Talks Over Nuclear Deal

US President Donald Trump                                       President Hassan Rouhani/AFP

 

President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday ruled out holding any bilateral talks with the United States and threatened to further cut Iran’s commitments to a nuclear deal within days.

In an address to parliament, Rouhani said any dialogue with the US would have to fall within the framework of the group of major powers that agreed on a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2015.

Rouhani also said Iran was ready to further reduce its commitments to the accord “in the coming days” if current negotiations with European nations yield no results by Thursday.

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

The arch-foes were on the cusp of confrontation in June when Iran downed a US drone and Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before cancelling them at the last minute.

France has been leading efforts to calm the situation, with President Emmanuel Macron expressing hope during G7 talks in late August of organising a meeting between Rouhani and Trump.

“Maybe there has been a misunderstanding. We’ve said it several times and we repeat it — there has been no decision to hold bilateral talks with the US,” said Rouhani.

In principle, we don’t want bilateral talks with the United States,” he was quoted as saying on the official government website.

“If the United States lifts all sanctions, it would be possible to talk (to them) during 5+1 meetings as in the past,” he said, referring to the powers involved in negotiating the 2015 deal.

“We have received several proposals (to have talks with the United States) and our answer has always been negative.”

Iran has hit back with countermeasures in response to the US withdrawal from the deal, which gave it the promise of relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

It has already increased its uranium enrichment and stockpiles, and Rouhani said Tuesday a “third step will be enacted in the coming days” unless the remaining parties to the deal honour their own commitments.

“If by Thursday these negotiations yield no results, we will announce the third step of the reduction of our commitments,” he said.

 ‘US betrayal’ 

But the president stressed the Iranian countermeasures were reversible.

“Our steps have been taken in such a way that it doesn’t take much time to get back to the starting point,” he said.

Rouhani voiced regret over the failure of European nations to fulfil pledges they made during negotiations.

“Unfortunately after the US betrayal… the Europeans haven’t acted on their commitments or couldn’t… in some cases, they could have acted but did not,” he said.

“What we are asking of the other countries is that they continue to buy our oil.

“We can continue negotiations even after the third step,” he added.

Rouhani has had a series of phone calls with Macron in recent weeks aimed at salvaging the nuclear deal.

The French president has been trying to convince the United States to offer Iran some sort of relief from sanctions it has imposed on the Islamic republic since pulling out of the deal.

A conservative Iranian lawmaker said Macron had proposed offering Iran a $15-billion credit line on condition it returns to the fold.

“Macron has proposed Iran stop its third step for now in exchange for this sum, and maybe retreat from its first and second steps to the initial situation,” said Ali Motahari, quoted late Sunday by Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

The 2015 deal was agreed between Iran and the so-called 5+1 — UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

AFP

Nuclear Deal: US Is Playing With Fire – Iran

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran. ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is “playing with fire,” echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.

The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.

Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.

“I think the United States is playing with fire,” Zarif told NBC News.

READ ALSO: Trump Pushes For Review Of Google’s Ties To China

Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 per cent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.

But “it can be reversed within hours,” Zarif told the channel, adding: “We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.”

Zarif’s comments came as the United States imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations.

Weeks after the United States threatened sanctions against Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran’s UN mission in Midtown Manhattan.

“US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.

UN ‘concerns’ 

No US diplomats are based in Iran as the two countries broke off relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah.

“Foreign Minister Zarif, he uses the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda,” the top US diplomat said.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the UN Secretariat was in contact with the US and Iranian missions about Zarif’s travel restrictions and “has conveyed its concerns to the host country.”

The United States, as host of the United Nations, has an agreement to issue visas promptly to foreign diplomats on UN business and only rarely declines.

Washington generally bars diplomats of hostile nations from travelling outside a 40-kilometre (25-mile) radius of New York’s Columbus Circle.

Zarif is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the UN Economic and Social Council, which is holding a high-level meeting on sustainable development.

Despite the restrictions, the decision to admit Zarif is the latest sign that Trump’s administration appears to be retreating from its vow to place sanctions on him as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 that sanctions against Zarif would come later that week.

Critics questioned the legal rationale for targeting Zarif and noted that sanctions would all but end the possibility of dialogue — which Trump has said is his goal.

Zarif said in an interview with The New York Times he would not be affected by sanctions as he owns no assets outside of Iran.

AFP

Germany, UK Warn Iran Over Uranium Plans As EU Urges Caution

President Hassan Rouhani / AFP

 

Germany and Britain on Monday warned Tehran not to breach uranium stockpile limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal, as the EU’s diplomatic chief dismissed Iranian threats as “political dialectics”.

Iran set a 10-day countdown on Monday to exceed the 300-kilogram limit set on its enriched uranium stocks, dealing another blow to the crumbling nuclear accord signed by Tehran and six international powers.

The EU has battled to save the agreement since US President Donald Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions, but Iran said it would step back from exceeding the 300-kg limit on June 27 only if “other parties live up to their commitments”.

The move comes as Iran tries to step up pressure on the deal’s other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — to help it sidestep US sanctions and in particular enable it to sell oil.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas rejected the Iranian ultimatum and insisted Tehran must stick to its commitments under the deal.

“We have already said in the past that we will not accept less for less. It is up to Iran to stick to its obligations,” Maas said after talks with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

“We will certainly not accept a unilateral reduction of obligations.”

A spokesman for the British government echoed the call, saying the E3 — the European signatories to the deal — has “consistently made clear that there can be no reduction in compliance”.

“For now Iran remains within its nuclear commitments. We are coordinating with E3 partners on next steps,” the spokesman added.

The European Union’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc would not act on the basis of Iranian rhetoric but wait for reports by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“Our assessment on the implementation of the nuclear deal has never been, is not and will never be based on statements, but on the evaluation that the IAEA makes, the reports that the IAEA produces and that can be done at any time,” Mogherini said after the talks.

“Announcements are relevant elements of political dialectics but our assessment on the implementation of the agreement is based on the factual, technically sound assessment and evaluation that the IAEA makes in its reports.”

On May 8, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Rouhani said the move was in retaliation for the unilateral US withdrawal from the accord a year earlier, which saw Washington impose tough economic sanctions on Tehran.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated ever since, with the United States bolstering its military presence in the region and blacklisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation.

AFP

Iran Nuclear Deal Must Be Upheld, Says China

US President Donald                                                    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani/AFP

 

Iran said Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed under a 2015 deal with major powers until they find a way to bypass renewed US sanctions.

The well-trailed announcement came as Washington stepped up its rhetoric against Tehran, accusing it of planning “imminent” attacks and deploying an aircraft carrier strike group with several nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the region.

Iran said it was responding to the sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has reimposed since it quit the agreement one year ago, which have dealt a severe blow to the Iranian economy.

It said it would stop implementing some of the restrictions it had agreed with immediate effect.

Tehran said it would abandon more if the remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia — failed to start delivering on their commitments to sanctions relief within 60 days.

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President Hassan Rouhani underlined that the ultimatum was intended to rescue the nuclear deal from his US counterpart Donald Trump who has repeatedly called for it to be scrapped since he pulled out on May 8, 2018.

“We felt the (deal) needed surgery and that the year-long sedatives have not delivered any result. This surgery is meant to save the (deal) not destroy it,” Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting broadcast live on state television.

Robert Kelley, a former UN nuclear inspector now with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the commitments Iran was dropping had no bearing on its ability to develop an atomic bomb.

He said Iran was simply seeking to “save face” after “striking a deal which was not respected by the other side.”

 US not world ‘sheriff’ 

Under the landmark deal agreed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the parties to the agreement were supposed to lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in return for it reining in its activities to ease fears it was seeking the capability to produce an atomic bomb.

But the promised sanctions relief has failed to materialise as European and Asian banks and oil companies have moved swiftly to abide by the renewed US sanctions for fear of financial or commercial repercussions.

Rouhani slammed European countries for seeing the US as the world’s “sheriff” and said this keeps them from making “firm decisions for their own national interests.”

“You have responsibilities, too … for keeping your youth away from drugs, the flood of immigrants and other cooperation Iran has had with you so far. If this trend continues, the cooperation will cease.”

The three European parties to the deal — Britain, France, and Germany — tried to save the accord with a trade mechanism meant to bypass reimposed US sanctions, but their attempt was dismissed by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a “bitter joke”.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was in Moscow on an official visit, accused European governments of not fulfilling their obligations under the nuclear deal.

“Our friends in Russia and China maintained very good relations with us in this year but the rest of the… participants did not meet any of their obligations,” Zarif said.

Germany urged Iran to uphold the nuclear deal. “We as Europeans, as Germans, will play our part and we expect full implementation from Iran as well,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Britain called Iran’s decision an “unwelcome step” and urged it to avoid “further escalatory steps”.

China underlined that it “resolutely opposes” the unilateral US sanctions on Iran but called on all parties to uphold the nuclear deal.

Russia said it remained committed to the nuclear deal and denounced what it called “unreasonable pressure” on Iran.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said it no longer considered itself bound by the agreed restrictions on stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water.

It said after 60 days, it would also stop abiding by restrictions on the level to which Iran can enrich uranium and modifications to its Arak heavy water reactor that were designed to prevent the production of plutonium.

Uranium enriched to much higher levels than Iran’s current stocks can be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, while heavy water is a source of plutonium which can be used as an alternative way to produce a warhead.

 Small ‘window for diplomacy’ 

The council called for swift action by the remaining parties to the deal, warning time was running out.

“The window which is now open for diplomacy will not remain so for long, and the responsibility of the (deal) failing and any possible consequences are completely on the US and the remaining parties,” it said.

On the eve of the Iranian announcement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad, an ally of both Washington and Tehran.

Pompeo said he made the trip because Iranian forces are “escalating their activity” and said the threat of attacks was “very specific”, without giving further detail.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of the nuclear deal, seized on the Iranian announcement as evidence that it was pressing ahead with its nuclear programme.

“We shall not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said.

AFP

Germany Rejects US Call To Quit Iran Nuclear Deal

US President Donald Trump                                        Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

 

Germany on Friday rejected an appeal by US Vice President Mike Pence for Europeans to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and isolate Tehran.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas defended the 2015 agreement under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

“Together with the Brits, French and the entire EU we have found ways to keep Iran in the nuclear agreement until today,” Maas told the Munich Security Conference.

READ ALSO: Trump Hails North Korea’s ‘Tremendous’ Economic Potential

A day earlier, Pence accused Tehran of planning a “new Holocaust” with its opposition to Israel and regional ambitions in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

Maas said that “our goal remains an Iran without nuclear weapons, precisely because we see clearly how Iran is destabilising the region”.

Without this agreement, “the region will not be safer and would actually be one step closer to an open confrontation,” he added.

Pence at a conference on the Middle East in Warsaw on Thursday denounced the retention by the Europeans of the nuclear agreement.

He also criticised the initiative of France, Germany and Britain to allow European companies to continue operating in Iran despite US sanctions.

AFP

Iran Sticking To Nuclear Deal Conditions – IAEA

 

Iran has been abiding by the terms of its nuclear deal with global powers, the latest report from the UN atomic watchdog indicated Monday, days after fresh US sanctions hit the country.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report showed that as of early November, Iran had been complying with the restrictions to its nuclear programme laid down in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Sweeping new American sanctions against Iran, which came into effect on 5 November, have raised fears about whether the deal can survive.

Some parts of the fieldwork in the report took place before the sanctions came into effect, but a senior diplomat with knowledge of the situation said there was “nothing that indicates that… cooperation from Iran or its attitude has changed since 5 November”.

The report said that as of November 4, Iran’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium stood at 149.4kg, 10kg up from the time of its last report in August.

However, this is still well within the limits set by the JCPOA.

The agency repeated language which has appeared in two previous reports emphasising the importance of “timely and proactive cooperation in providing such access” on Iran’s part.

However, the senior diplomat suggested that this was meant less as an admonition to Iran than as an encouragement to maintain the current level of cooperation.

 ‘Face value’ 

The report makes no mention of recent claims made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran was harbouring a secret atomic warehouse.

The latest American sanctions aim to cut off Iran’s banks from international finance and significantly cut its oil exports.

Those have already fallen by up to one million barrels a day since May, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, branding it a “disaster”.

Iran’s economy was already reeling from the effect of US sanctions imposed earlier in the year. On Friday US National Security Advisor John Bolton warned that more sanctions were possible.

Iran has said the future of the JCPOA would be called into question if it no longer received the economic benefits of the deal.

The deal envisaged sanctions on Iran being lifted in return for it accepting IAEA inspections and limits on its nuclear activities.

The remaining five signatories to the JCPOA — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have backed an EU effort to set up a special payment system in an attempt to continue trade and business ties with Iran.

However, some European companies have already pulled out of Iran. Earlier this month senior EU officials admitted that the mechanism was proving difficult to set up.

AFP

[UPDATED] U.S. To ‘Terminate’ Nuclear Deal With Russia, Says Trump

BREAKING: US To Terminate Nuclear Deal With Russia, Trump Says
(File) US President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on August 16, 2018, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump confirmed Saturday that the United States plans to leave a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia over claims Moscow has violated the deal.

The three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF, was signed in 1987 by president Ronald Reagan.

“We’re the ones who have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honoured the agreement, but Russia has not unfortunately honoured the agreement, so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters in Elko, Nevada.

“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years. I don’t know why president (Barack) Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons (while) we’re not allowed to.”

Trump spoke as his National Security Advisor John Bolton was in Moscow to meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, ahead of what is expected to be a second summit between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin this year.

US-Russia ties are under deep strain over accusations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election, as well as tension over Russian support for the Syrian government in the country’s civil war, and the conflict in Ukraine.

However, Washington is looking for support from Moscow in finding resolutions to the Syria war and putting pressure on both Iran and North Korea.

No new summit between Trump and Putin has been announced, but one is expected in the near future.

The two leaders will be in Paris on November 11 to attend commemorations marking the end of World War I.

A senior Trump administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said another potential date would be when the presidents both attend the Group of 20 meeting on November 30 to December 1.

AFP

North Korea Sanctions May Be Eased Before Full Denuclearisation

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a signing ceremony with US President Donald Trump (not pictured) during their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

South Korea said Monday that sanctions against North Korea could be eased once it takes “substantive steps towards denuclearisation”, seemingly setting the bar lower than Washington for such a move.

Last week’s Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un produced only a vague statement in which Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.

Amid fears the summit would weaken the international coalition against the North’s nuclear programme, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed after the meeting that sanctions would remain in place until North Korea’s complete denuclearisation.

But his South Korean counterpart suggested Monday they could be eased sooner.

“Our stance is that the sanctions must remain in place until North Korea takes meaningful, substantive steps towards denuclearisation,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters.

Seoul and Washington shared the same “big picture” view and would continue close consultations, she added.

The comments come just days after China’s foreign ministry suggested that the UN Security Council could consider easing the economic punishment of its Cold War-era ally.

Any reduction in tensions on its doorstep is welcome for China, North Korea’s closest ally, which accounts for around 90 percent of Pyongyang’s trade.

The same goes for the South’s dovish President Moon Jae-in, who supports engagement with North Korea and held his own summit with Kim in April.

Until recently Trump had pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign — with both China and South Korea on board — of tough rhetoric and tightened sanctions against Pyongyang.

But analysts say the Singapore summit has made it hard for the Trump administration to return to that policy even if its current diplomacy with North Korea proves to be a failure.

“The symbolism of the meeting ensures that the maximum pressure campaign has peaked,” said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies at the US Council on Foreign Relations, in a commentary.

“In practice, China and South Korea will push for relaxation of economic pressure on North Korea,” he added.

AFP

Macron Warns Of Risk Of ‘Escalation’ Over Iran Nuclear Deal

French President Emmanuel Macron. PHILIPPE WOJAZER / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned of the risk of an “escalation” in the Iranian nuclear standoff after Tehran announced plans to boost uranium enrichment capacity to pressure Europeans scrambling to save a landmark deal.

At a press conference with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the French leader called on “everyone to stabilise the situation and not give into this escalation which would lead to only one thing: conflict.”

While noting that Iran had stepped up the pressure with its latest announcement, Macron also pointed blame in the direction of US President Donald Trump for unilaterally pulling out of the hard-fought 2015 deal designed to stop Tehran getting a nuclear bomb.

“When you decide to bring an end to a deal on your side, that does not encourage the other party to respect it,” he said, calling this “solid common sense”.

He stressed he had “no indication” that Iran had breached the terms of the deal, which Trump walked away from last month.

And while he agreed with Netanyahu that the deal had flaws, he added: “If you consider it insufficient but that it’s a step forward from what exist before, it’s better to keep it.”

Netanyahu, who has vigorously opposed the Iranian deal, said he had not attempted to convince Macron to abandon it.

Instead he said he believed Europe would give up on its efforts to save it under pressure from the US, which has threatened sanctions against European countries which continue to do business in Iran.

“I did not ask President Macron to leave the deal. I think that economic realities are going to decide this matter, so it’s not what we focused on,” he said after talks between the two leaders.

“What we focused on, and what I focused on, is how to stop Iranian aggression in the region.”

He accused Tehran of using the “cash bonanza” from sanctions relief under the deal “not to develop Iran, not to make it more moderate”, but to build up its forces in war-torn Syria.

“They want to bring in 80,000 Shiite fighters, from Afghanistan, from Pakistan,” he claimed.

“What that will do is spark another religious war, another civil war… and where will the refugees go? They’ll go to one place, to here (France) or to Germany or to Europe,” he said, repeating a similar warning to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

AFP

Iran Lays Out Nuclear Deal Red Lines

 President Hassan Rouhani giving a speech in the northwestern city of Sabzevar./ AFPi

 

Following Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic republic’s supreme leader has laid out his country’s conditions for upholding its side of the landmark accord with world powers.

The following excerpts from an address by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Iranian officials, published on Thursday, outline Iran’s demands of Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany if the deal is to survive:

 ‘Protest US action’ 

“The US withdrawal is a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (establishing the nuclear deal). The Europeans need to table a resolution against the US to protest this action.”

‘No objections to missiles’ 

“The heads of the three European nations must promise not to raise any objections to Iranian missiles or Iran’s presence in the region. Everyone should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will never give up elements of its power, especially concerning questions of defence.”

The US has levied sanctions against Tehran for its ballistic missile programme and labels Iranian regional proxy groups such as Hezbollah as “terrorist” entities.

‘Safeguard oil sales’ 

“If the US succeeds in disturbing Iranian oil sales, the Europeans must promise to buy whatever quantity we wish to sell.”

US President Donald Trump triggered fears for Iran’s economy earlier this month when he pulled his country from the 2015 deal.

World powers and signatories have since rallied around the accord, which imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.

The prospect of new American sanctions on Tehran has already caused some European firms to indicate they will pull out of business ventures in Iran.

 ‘Concrete guarantees’ 

Khamenei has said Iran could resume its uranium enrichment up to 20 percent should the deal collapse. The accord limits Tehran to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, well short of weapons-grade strength.

“Iran is not seeking discord with the Europeans but given their past behaviour we cannot trust them,” Khamenei said. “For this reason, the guarantees must be concrete.”

Europe Has 60 Days To Give Nuclear ‘Guarantees’ – Iran

Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani                                                                   Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

European countries have 60 days to provide “guarantees” to safeguard Iran’s interests after the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, parliament’s website said quoting an Iranian official.

“The Europeans have between 45 and 60 days to give the necessary guarantees to safeguard Iranian interests and compensate the damages caused by the US pullout,” Icana.ir reported.

The website attributed the remarks to Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as reported by Seyyed Hossein Naghavi, spokesman of parliament’s foreign affairs commission.

According to him, Araghchi told the commission that if Iran does not receive such guarantees European leaders would have to “take the necessary decisions”.

These reported remarks come as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif embarked on a diplomatic tour to try and save the nuclear deal.

Zarif arrived in Beijing on Sunday for the first stop of his tour, ahead of visiting Moscow and Brussels in the coming days.

Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, as well as Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

In Beijing on Sunday Zarif said he was hopeful of forging a “clear future design” for the deal to save it from collapse after US President Donald Trump withdrew from it on Tuesday.

“If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured,” Zarif added.

AFP

Iran Minister On Diplomatic Tour To Save Nuclear Deal

Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani                                                                              ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iran’s Foreign Minister was due to leave Saturday for a whirlwind diplomatic tour as world leaders scramble to salvage something from the wreckage of a key nuclear deal after Washington withdrew.

Mohammad Javad Zarif’s tour starts two days after unprecedented Israeli strikes in Syria which a monitor said killed at least 11 Iranian fighters, triggering fears of a broader conflict between the two arch-enemies.

He will visit Beijing, Moscow and Brussels, a spokesman said, holding meetings with all of the remaining parties to the 2015 agreement.

Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his Twitter page, slamming the “extremist administration” of US President Donald Trump for abandoning “an accord recognised as a victory of diplomacy by the international community”.

It reiterated that Iran was preparing to resume “industrial-scale” uranium enrichment “without any restrictions” unless Europe provided solid guarantees that it could maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions.

Zarif’s delicate diplomatic mission was complicated by reports of clashes between Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria on Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said Saturday that 11 Iranians were among the 27 pro-regime fighters killed in strikes by Israel, which has vowed to prevent Iran gaining a military foothold in neighbouring Syria.

Tehran, which has sought to avoid an escalation in regional conflict that could alienate its European partners, has not commented on whether its forces were hit.

Israel and its allies have blamed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for initiating Thursday’s exchange by launching missiles into the occupied Golan Heights.

The White House backed Israel’s claims, accusing Iran of “reckless actions” that posed a “severe threat” to stability in the Middle East.

“Already this week, the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) has fired rockets at Israeli citizens, and Iran’s proxies in Yemen have launched a ballistic missile at Riyadh,” it said.

Saudi Arabia is another of Iran’s key regional rivals.

Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, and “both leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria,” the White House said.

Iran denies that version of events, saying the Israeli strikes were launched on “invented pretexts”.

Angry diplomats 

Meanwhile, European diplomats in Tehran fumed that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal could undermine years of patient work to restore commercial and diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.

“Since the signing of the JCPOA (nuclear deal), we have gone from an atmosphere like a gold rush, to one of utter depression,” said a Western trade diplomat on condition of anonymity.

“We are waiting now for how the decision-makers in the European Union will react. If the EU leans towards accommodating the US, all the progress we have made since 2015 will be lost.”

But she emphasised that many of the problems began long before Trump’s move last Tuesday.

“Decisions on the Iranian side took longer than expected, international banks were reluctant to work with Iran and the recent decline in the value of (Iran’s currency) made international business even more difficult,” she said.

Iranian hardliners are already mobilising against the government’s efforts to save the nuclear deal.

Demonstrators rallied in Tehran following Friday prayers to protest Trump’s move.

“Officials shouldn’t trust France and Britain. They will never abandon the US for us,” said housewife Poormoslem.

A photo on the official Instagram site of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei showed him reading a Farsi translation of Michael Wolff’s scabrous account of the Trump White House, “The Fire and the Fury”, quickly picking up more than 100,000 likes.

Analysts said Iran was determined to maintain the moral high ground in the coming weeks.

“For the first time, Iran has the chance to show the world they are not the rogue nation they are always presented as, that they negotiated in good faith and keep to their commitments,” said Karim Emile Bitar of the Institute for International and Strategic Studies in Paris.

But the government of President Hassan Rouhani faces political challenges at home, where the economy was already suffering high unemployment and inflation before Trump’s decision.

Many say sanctions allow the government to blame outsiders for its own bad decisions.

The Western trade diplomat gave the example of Iran’s recent restrictions on transferring funds to the EU — an effort to control the rapid slide of the rial — that caused huge problems for importers.

“It’s really annoying that the Iranian government is never blamed for the really bad decisions they have taken lately concerning business, and only the sanctions are blamed,” she said.

AFP