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Iran, EU top diplomat meet seeking to save nuclear deal

16 Mai 2018

Rand Paul said Tuesday he wishes President Donald Trump had not moved to exit the Iran deal and supported talks between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

It left European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany - signatories of the 2015 deal to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons - with their backs against the wall as they prepared for a dinner meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

European firms, especially those from France and Germany, rushed to invest in Iran following the 2015 accord, under which Tehran agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in return for an end to punishing worldwide sanctions.

Demonstrators rallied in Tehran following Friday prayers to protest Trump's move. It also came over the opposition of China and Russian Federation, which are also party to the 2015 deal.

"I have to tell you that I do not believe that regime change in Tehran is the objective that we should be seeking", Johnson said. But Trump has described it as a "terrible deal".

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in an interview with Le Parisien published on Thursday, said European companies should not have to pay for the U.S. decision.

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

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who met Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday morning, said it was up to the European powers "to preserve a deal we have achieved together".

New Zealand businesses would suffer if the government gave in to threats from the United States over sanctions on dealings with Iran, Iran's ambassador to New Zealand says.

Russian Federation and Iran also sought to strengthen their business ties long before the 2015 agreement, despite worldwide sanctions in place.

Concern about the effects of the USA decision is particularly strong in France, as many of its companies were among the first to invest in Iran after the signing of the nuclear accord.

The deal was negotiated between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany.

Mogherini said it had been a "very productive" meeting but indicated it was the start of a long road.

The US will reimpose the US nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted to effectuate the JCPOA sanctions relief, following a 90-day and 180-day wind-down period.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington still wants to work with Europe to counter Iran's "malign behaviour" and was working hard to thrash out a more wide-ranging deal with its European partners.

After Trump's decision, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned nine Iranian individuals and entities including those with links to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

The penalties for breaking US sanctions can be steep, as some of France's biggest firms can attest. In the interim, Washington must not lose sight of managing Europe's reaction and preventing Iran from taking advantage of fissures in the trans-Atlantic alliance.

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened the European allies that Washington is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies if their governments refuse to heed Trump's demand to stop dealing with Iran.

Iran will prepare for the "industrial scale" production of nuclear fuel even as it seeks guarantees from other countries to honor the Iran deal despite the recent United States' withdrawal from the agreement. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Shiite group told The Media Line that "the American withdrawal from the deal is a reflection of its arrogance and the fact that it does not respect global law and the will of the worldwide community".

She added: "Britain, France and Germany were of the opinion that the agreement against Iran's nuclear armament is an agreement that certainly has weaknesses, but an agreement we should stand by".

However, the sanctions for now only affect companies that operate out of the USA or have significant exposure there. He said Europe "is not capable of reacting to those extraterritorial measures". But the USA withdrawal is a severe blow to the sustainability of the agreement.

Iran, EU top diplomat meet seeking to save nuclear deal