Iran still implementing nuclear deal: IAEA

Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin speaking into a microphone

Major powers and Iran agreed on Friday to move quickly to offset the USA pullout from its nuclear deal and Washington's renewed sanctions, with Tehran pressuring Europe to come up with a package of economic measures by May 31.

World powers and signatories have since rallied around the accord, which imposed curbs on Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.

Shamkhani also criticized Europeans signatories to the nuclear deal, saying they should have "acted more firmly and decisively in condemning and stopping preliminary USA measures in violating the JCPOA".

"By leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US has practically torn up this global agreement", he added, referring to a recent move by US President Donald Trump to walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. "The Europeans need to table a resolution against the U.S.to protest this action".

The JCPOA, agreed between Iran and the US, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain in July 2015, went into effect in January 2016.

After Friday's meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told reporters discussions would continue. Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said nobody can have "any illusions" about European companies being exempt from USA sanctions.

In both the Iran deal and a potential North Korea deal, the United States has enormous leverage - and it should never forget that fact.

The Iran nuclear pact already limits Iranian stockpiles to an extremely low enrichment level of 3.67 percent, well below the 90 percent needed for weapons production, and guarantees extensive and intrusive inspections of all nuclear-related facilities.

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"We have said times and again that we are merely negotiating about the JCPOA and have no demands or words beyond the JCPOA", the top diplomat said.

The United States demanded on Monday that Iran tear down the chief tenets of its foreign policy and vowed to enact the "strongest sanctions in history" on Tehran if it does not negotiate a new bargain with Washington to replace the 2015 nuclear deal.

It remains to be seen what the Europeans would suggest to Iran, the top diplomat added, referring to the guarantees that the European Union (EU) should give Iran so that the country's interests are protected after the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Since the US's pull out, the other signatories have since embarked on a diplomatic marathon to try to keep the agreement afloat.

Hypothetically, there is still hope that the Europeans will be able to maintain this balance by launching a process to, as they say, protect the interests of European companies investing in Iran as part of their commitment to the nuclear deal. European banks that continue to deal with Iran could be blacklisted and frozen out of the American financial system.

Iran has so far benefited less from the accord than it had initially hoped, partly because of remaining USA sanctions that have deterred major Western investors from doing business with Tehran.

The chief executive of French oil and gas major Total has said that U.S. sanctions on Iran represent a huge challenge.

Trump denounced the accord, completed under his predecessor Barack Obama, because it did not cover Iran's ballistic missile program, its role in Middle East conflicts or what happens after the deal begins to expire in 2025.

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