European Union launches economic plan to save Iran nuclear deal

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif | AP

"We are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive" now that the United States has walked away from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

Speaking after her meeting with Zarif, Mogherini said the European Union had agreed to start work on a multi-level stream of work created to keep the Iran deal alive.

The European Union set out to identify "practical solutions" for salvaging the Iran nuclear accord within weeks, as the bloc strives to contain the fallout from President Donald Trump's decision to pull the plug from the landmark deal.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

"If the remaining five countries in the deal live up to their commitments and guarantee Iran's interests, the agreement will survive", he said on Sunday during a meeting with visiting Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena.

An EU spokesman played down suggestions that concrete proposals would be offered to Iran on Tuesday, but insisted it would be left in no doubt that the EU would stay in the deal, which was signed in 2015, as long as inspectors find that Iran is complying with its terms.

We will make it clear to Zarif "that we stand by the agreements and also expect Iran to abide by them", said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

"Let's not fool ourselves that there are dozens of things we can do", said a senior European diplomat.

White House National Security adviser John Bolton said United States sanctions on European companies that maintain business dealings with Iran were "possible".

"Nuclear agreement" with Iran is not in need of additions or changes.

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Even former President Obama, who typically doesn't weigh in on current events, issued a statement saying he believes the USA decision to pull out of the Iran agreement is "a serious mistake".

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his German, French and British counterparts, as well as Mogherini, following last week's decision by US President Donald Trump to re-impose sanctions on Iran and companies doing business there.

After long negotiations, Iran agreed in July 2015 to freeze its nuclear program in return for the repeal of punishing global sanctions.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Tuesday more sanctions on officials of the Iranian central bank, including Governor Valiollah Seif, for allegedly moving millions of dollars on behalf of the country's Revolutionary Guards Corps to Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah group.

"Unfortunately once again we see that Washington is trying to revise key worldwide agreements as it happens to Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as it happens to Jerusalem (al-Quds) problem and a number of other agreements", the top Russian diplomat said.

Mike Pompeo, the USA secretary of state, spoke to his European counterparts to set out how he expects European companies to withdraw from trade with Iran.

Russian Federation and Iran also sought to strengthen their business ties long before the 2015 agreement, despite worldwide sanctions in place.

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

German exports to Iran totalled almost 3 billion euros in 2017, while French exports soared from 562 million euros in 2015 to 1.5 billion in 2017 and oil giant Total has pledged to invest some $5 billion in the South Pars gas field.

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