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Iran upbeat on nuclear deal hopes after EU talks

AFP  |  Brussels 

Iran's said today that efforts to save the nuclear deal after the abrupt US withdrawal were "on the right track" as he began talks with European powers in

met EU foreign policy ahead of evening talks with his counterparts from Britain, and -- the three European signatories to the 2015 landmark deal who are scrambling to preserve it.

has warned it is preparing to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite the reimposing sanctions.

Zarif gave an upbeat assessment after a "good and constructive" meeting with Mogherini.

"I believe we're on the right track to move forward in order to ensure that interests of all the JCPOA remaining participants, particularly Iran, will be preserved and guaranteed," he told reporters. The deal's name is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

But European diplomats have sought to play down expectations of Tuesday's meeting, stressing the enormous challenge of finding a way around US sanctions punishing foreign businesses trading with Iran, which have global reach.

"There is no one -- there will be a complicated, comprehensive series of options at both the EU and national level, therefore it will take some time," a senior EU said.

The insists the deal is working, pointing to repeated UN inspections verifying the Islamic republic's compliance with its side of the bargain, and Mogherini's told AFP ahead of Zarif's arrival that "we must do our utmost to preserve it".

EU leaders aim to show a united front on preserving the deal when they meet for a pre-summit dinner in on Wednesday, officials said.

Mogherini and will outline to the leaders what measures the bloc could take to shield its now substantial economic interests in

European firms, especially those from and Germany, rushed to invest in following the 2015 accord, under which agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in return for the repeal of punishing international sanctions.

German exports to Iran totalled nearly 3.0 billion euros in 2017, while French exports soared from 562 million euros in 2015 to 1.5 billion in 2017 and

Total has pledged to invest some $5 billion in the South Pars

When he quit the deal last week, US gave businesses a maximum of six months to wind up operations in Iran or face swingeing penalties under American sanctions.

Zarif's meetings in cap a whirlwind global tour, including trips to both and China, the two other signatory nations, in a bid to bolster support.

Washington's decision to go against its European allies' advice and abandon the deal has pushed them closer to and on the issue as diplomats try to keep the pact alive.

French held phone talks with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday, according to a Kremlin statement, which said they had "confirmed and France's commitment to make the deal work".

Zarif was in to meet Russian on Monday, a day after visiting leaders in

"The final aim of these negotiations is to seek assurances that the interests of the Iranian nation will be defended," Zarif said at the start of a meeting.

On Monday Zarif also sent a letter to the in which he accused the US of showing a "complete disregard for international law" in pulling out of the deal.

has long complained that the nuclear deal does nothing to stop Iran's ballistic missile programme or its interference in conflicts across the from to

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

Ahead of today's meeting, British said the European powers would not shy away from pressing Iran on these issues.

"Our meeting with Iranian Zarif in is a chance to discuss how we can continue to support sanctions relief with Iran while they maintain their nuclear agreement obligations, but also raise our worries about Iran's wider, disruptive behaviour in the region," Johnson said.

But while Pompeo has talked up the prospect of renewed coordination with America's allies, another top reminded its companies could face sanctions if they continue to do business with the Middle

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

First Published: Tue, May 15 2018. 18:45 IST