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Iran's Zarif Heads To Brussels On Tour Aimed At Saving Nuclear Deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran's foreign minister arrives on May 15 in Brussels -- the final stop of a global tour aimed at rallying support for a landmark 2015 nuclear between Tehran and six world powers in the wake of Washington's withdrawal from the deal.

In addition to the United States and Iran, the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany.

Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet later in the evening (EDS: 2030 Prague time) with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Germany -- the three European signatory nations who have been making efforts to save the ageement under which Iran pledged to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out on May 8, claiming that Iran had violated the “spirit” of the deal by financing militant violence in the Middle East and by continuing to test ballistic missiles.

Iran denies financing extremist violence and says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes.

Earlier on May 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Iran deal with French President Emmanuel Macron by phone, the Kremlin said.

The two leaders reiterated their commitment to the Iran accord in the phone call, the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

Zarif arrives in Brussels from Russia, where he and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to remain in "close contact" over the deal.

Lavrov and Zarif met on May 14 in Moscow -- the Iranian diplomat's second stop, after Beijing, on a tour of key capitals as Tehran deals with the fallout from Trump’s decision to pull out of the accord.

Lavrov told Zarif that all the remaining signatories of the JCPOA have "legitimate interests" in keeping the deal and that "therefore we need to defend the legitimate interests of each of us together." Zarif said that Russia had confirmed its readiness to respect the pact.

However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, speaking on May 15 at a meeting in Moscow of the Valdai Discussion Club -- a gathering of Russian and international foreign policy experts, said it would be impossible to preserve the deal without Tehran making concessions, the Interfax news agency reported.

After his talks in Beijing on March 13, Zarif said Iran wants a “clear future design” for the accord.

“We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive agreement," Zarif told reporters after talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

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

Following talks with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on May 14 that France, Britain, and Germany were "determined" to save the Iranian nuclear deal.

"The U.S. leaving an international agreement does not mean that the international agreement is null and void," Le Drian said.

Johnson said he would discuss ways to protect European companies doing business with Iran at the Brussels meeting.

Boris Johnson Meets Le Drian To Discuss Iran Deal
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Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken to his German, French, and British counterparts in recent days to discuss cooperation over Iran.

"The Secretary underlined that the United States and our European allies share strong interests in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon and in countering the Iranian regime's destabilizing activities in the region," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "He is hopeful we can continue strong cooperation."

Pompeo told Fox News on May 13 that Washington was ready to form a more wide-ranging Iran deal with its European partners “that achieves the outcomes that protect America."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP