Iran scrambles for European lifeline


During a meeting in Vienna Friday, Iran's Vice Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi warned it will withdraw from the multilateral accord if the EU, China and Russian Federation cave into US pressure to reinstate economic sanctions.

President Donald Trump's May 8 order to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, and reimpose USA sanctions has cast doubt over whether the deal can still work. "I am trying my best to come to a conclusion", a senior Iranian official told reporters ahead of the talks.

British, Chinese, French, German and Russian officials will try to flesh out with Iran's deputy foreign minister a strategy to save the deal by keeping oil and investment flowing, while circumventing USA sanctions that risk hurting the economy.

"I must tell you that the JCPOA is a major global asset".

Iran has so far benefited less from the accord than it had initially hoped, partly because of remaining US sanctions that have deterred major Western investors from doing business with Tehran.

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Iran is still implementing the 2015 accord over its nuclear programme, just weeks after Washington ditched the accord, according to a report by the UN's nuclear watchdog.

"We expect the (economic) package to be given to us by the end of May".

But if Iran's real red lines are even close to the sweeping demands made by the ayatollah it is unlikely the Europeans will be able to satisfy Tehran.

He said Iran could no longer have any dealings with the USA, saying: "The Islamic Republic cannot deal with a government that easily violates an worldwide treaty, withdraws its signature and in a theatrical show brags about its withdrawal on television". He also rejected any new negotiations over Iran's missile program, which was not covered in the nuclear deal.

"If not we would go for a ministerial (meeting) and after that if Iran is still not satisfied we would take the decision".

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"We do not resume [uranium] enrichment at 20 percent purity now, however, you should be ready to resume activities which were restricted under the JCPOA if the JCPOA is no more useful", he said.

He added that the Europeans had promised Iran an "economic package" to maintain the benefits of the JCPOA for Iran despite the reintroduction of United States sanctions.

In a statement after the talks, Helga Schmid, the European Union representative who chaired the meeting, said parties to the deal discussed "practical solutions" to ensure, among others, the continued sale of Iran's oil and gas, protection of businesses investing in Iran, as well as effective banking transactions and transport links. Some Western companies have already quit Iran or said they may have to leave because of the new U.S. sanctions.

"We can not continue the deal. unless the remaining participants will compensate and take countermeasures against USA sanctions and continue economic relations with Iran", the official said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report, seen by AFP Thursday, shows that Iran is abiding by the deal's key restrictions on its nuclear facilities in return for relief from damaging economic sanctions. "We made the JCPOA in good faith and we remained committed to the JCPOA and they just pulled name me a single reason why we should enter into a new negotiation with the USA or a new deal?"

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