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Iran FM arrives in China on diplomatic tour to save nuclear deal

AFP 

Iran's arrived in today, Iranian media said, on the first leg of a whirlwind diplomatic tour designed to try and rescue the nuclear deal left on the brink of collapse after the US pulled out.

will later fly to and to consult with the remaining signatories to the 2015 agreement denounced by

Washington's decision to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose sanctions infuriated its allies in as well as and

was one of the six powers -- with the United States, Russia, France, the UK and -- that signed the historic pact which saw sanctions lifted in return for the commitment by not to acquire nuclear weapons.

As he arrived in Beijing, Zarif said, "we will discuss the decision that should take", according to the semi-official agency.

He added: "As the of the republic has said, we are ready for all option(s). If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of must be assured." Zarif, who is set to hold talks with his opposite number Wang Yi, hailed Tehran's relations with Beijing, reported.

"We have had good relations with before and since the deal," he said.

"China is by far the first economic partner of We are certain that today China is by our side." Tehran's embarked on the tour as regional tensions spiked just days after unprecedented Israeli strikes in which a monitor said killed at least 11 Iranian fighters, triggering fears of a broader conflict between the two arch-enemies.

Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his page, slamming Trump's "extremist administration" 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 provided solid guarantees it could maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions.

Trump hit back Saturday evening, tweeting that the accord had failed to contain Iran's militarism.

"Iran's Military Budget is up more than 40 percent since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached... just another indicator that it was all a big lie," he wrote.

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

The said Saturday that 11 Iranians were among the pro-regime fighters killed in strikes by Israel, which has vowed to prevent Iran gaining a military foothold in neighbouring

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

and its allies have blamed Iran's for initiating Thursday's exchange by launching missiles into the occupied

Iran denies the claims, saying the Israeli strikes were launched on "invented pretexts".

Meanwhile, European diplomats in 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 on condition of anonymity.

"We are waiting now for how the decision makers in the will react. If the EU leans towards accommodating the US, all the progress we have made since 2015 will be lost." Iranian hardliners -- who have long opposed Hassan Rouhani's moves to improve ties with the West -- are already mobilising against the efforts to save the nuclear deal.

Mohammad Ali Jafari, of the Revolutionary Guards, said the country could not rely on the West.

"We hope recent events will lead us not to trust in the West and even Europeans," he said Sunday, according to the conservative-linked agency.

"The Europeans have repeated on several occasions that they will not be able to resist US sanctions." He added if the European powers were unable to make guarantees, "we must choose the path of self-sufficiency and nuclear industry with our own capabilities".

The sentiment was echoed on the streets.

"Officials shouldn't trust and Britain. They will never abandon the US for us," said housewife Poormoslem at a protest against Trump on Friday.

A photo on the official site of supreme leader Ayatollah showed him reading a Farsi translation of Michael Wolff's blistering account of the Trump White House, "The Fire and the Fury", quickly picking up more than 100,000 likes.

Khamenei said this week he is highly doubtful that will provide the "real guarantees" needed for Iran to stay in the nuclear deal.

But 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 of the and Strategic Studies in

The challenge for Rouhani is to maintain his diplomatic efforts in the face of mounting challenges at home, where Iranians were already suffering high unemployment and inflation before Trump's decision.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, May 13 2018. 15:15 IST
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