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Iran Urges EU To Do More To Preserve Nuclear Accord

Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi (left), speaks during a joint press conference with European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Miguel Arias Canete in Tehran on May 19.

Iran has urged the European Union to do more to preserve a landmark 2015 accord easing sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

In a meeting with EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete on May 20, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that with the withdrawal of the United States from the deal, the Iranian public expects more from the EU to ensure gains made under the accord are not lost.

"Under present circumstances, political support from Europe is not enough," Zarif said.

"The union must take more practical steps to continue its economic cooperation with Iran and increase its investments in Iran," he added.

China, Russia, France, Germany, Britain, and the United States signed the 2015 accord, which provided Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

But U.S. President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the United States would abandon the deal and reimpose the tough sanctions that were lifted as part of the accord.

Trump long complained about the deal and said Tehran was violating the "spirit" of it by continuing to test ballistic missiles and by supporting militant activities in the region, leading him to withdraw from the pact on May 8.

The other signees had urged Washington to remain in the deal.

"We have to preserve this agreement so we don't have to negotiate a new agreement," Canete said after two days of meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran.

"Our message is very clear. This is a nuclear agreement that works."

EU investment in Iran -- mainly from Germany, France and Italy -- has jumped to more than 20 billion euros ($23.5 billion) since sanctions were eased in 2016, with projects ranging from aerospace to energy ventures.

With the threat of renewed U.S. sanctions looming, some foreign firms have already started signaling their intention to pull back from Iran.

Canete said he recognized that time was of the essence and that clear measures were needed from the EU to protect investments and oil purchases.

Iran has threatened to resume industrial uranium enrichment "without limit" if its interests are not protected.