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No guarantees, but EU vows to keep Iran accord alive

China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-17 07:19

BRUSSELS - European powers vowed to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive without the United States by trying to keep Iran's oil and investment flowing, but admitted they would struggle to provide the guarantees Teheran seeks.

British, French and German foreign ministers, along with the EU's top diplomat, discussed the next steps with their Iranian counterpart, a week after US President Donald Trump abandoned the pact he branded "the worst deal ever" and reimposed US sanctions on Iran.

"We all agreed that we have a relative in intensive care and we all want to get him or her out of intensive care as quickly as possible," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after the 90-minute meeting.

She said all sides had agreed to find practical solutions over the coming weeks. Those included continuing to sell Iran's oil and gas products, maintaining effective banking transactions and protecting European investments in Iran.

"I cannot talk about legal or economic guarantees but I can talk about serious, determined, immediate work from the European side," Mogherini said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the meeting had been a good start, but he wanted to see guarantees materialize. "We are on the right track, ... a lot will depend on what we can do in the next few weeks," he said.

Highlighting just how difficult it will be, the US Treasury announced on Tuesday more sanctions, including on Iran's central bank governor, just minutes before the Brussels meeting was due to begin.

Zarif said the latest US decision was "illegal".

Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was blunt about the chances of avoiding US sanctions that also seek to prohibit foreign companies from doing business with Iran.

"We have to be realistic about the electrified rail, the live wire of American extraterritoriality and how (it) can serve as a deterrent to business," Johnson told reporters.

The deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions in 2016 in return for Teheran curbing its nuclear program, under strict surveillance by the UN nuclear watchdog, to stockpile enriched uranium for an atomic bomb.

Iranian officials have threatened to resume enrichment.

Trump denounced the accord, completed under his predecessor Barack Obama, because it did not cover Iran's ballistic missile program.

'The best way'

EU said the nuclear deal is the best way to prevent Teheran from obtaining an atomic weapon.

"What was significant is that Zarif reaffirmed their will to stick to the agreement if we find a way to help them a little," a senior European diplomat said.

The Europeans and Iranians have now tasked experts to come up with measures quickly and will meet again in Vienna next week at a deputy foreign minister level.

Measures could include retaliatory sanctions, allowing the European Investment Bank to invest in Iran and coordinating euro-denominated credit lines from European governments.

But the reach of the US financial system, the dominance of the dollar and the presence of European companies' operations in the US all weaken any potential EU measures.

Reuters - Afp - Xinhua

(China Daily 05/17/2018 page11)

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