Iran pressures Europe to speed up plans to save nuclear deal

Iran asks Europe what it can offer to keep it in the nuclear deal after U.S. pullout

Iran asks Europe what it can offer to keep it in the nuclear deal after U.S. pullout

Nations that remain in the deal - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russian Federation - held a formal meeting on Friday without the United States for the first time since Trump's announcement, but diplomats saw limited scope for salvaging the agreement.

Also in exchange for Iran continuing to honor the deal, Khamenei said the European nations should guarantee that they will not only continue to buy Iranian oil but will try to block USA plans to curb Iranian oil sales through renewed sanctions.

Europeans have been working on a suite of proposals, including making it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in Iran, sheltering payments for oil and gas from USA sanctions and ordering European businesses to disregard the new US measures.

Iran is looking for guarantees it can continue to sell its oil on world markets, have global banking access and broad protection for ongoing trade, among other things. Isolating Iranian banks from SWIFT in 2012 was key in the run-up to the nuclear negotiations that yielded the deal. "We take two completely different paths", German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Washington after a 75-minute meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on May 23.

On Monday, Pompeo issued his own list of a dozen concessions Iran must make before Washington lifts sanctions and normalizes ties with Tehran. "But I'm sorry to say we haven't seen the Plan B yet".

Those measures include banning EU-based firms from complying with the reimposed USA sanctions, urging governments to make transfers to Iran's central bank to avoid fines and creating alternative financing channels. But that has proven hard, with European companies frightened away by United States sanctions.

A senior Iranian official says Tehran expects European Union countries to put forward concrete solutions by the end of May to keep the 2015 Vienna accord alive. "Plan B has just started to be figured out".

He added that Tehran would decide within the next few weeks whether to stay in the accord.

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"European banks should safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic", Khamenei said. Such a guarantee would potentially cost Europe billions of dollars.

The "maximalist" demands would be tough for European leader to meet, but Khamenei has shown he is willing to budge in the past. Some Western companies have already quit Iran or said they may have to leave because of the new United States sanctions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week vowed to destroy Iran's economy and "crush" its operatives and proxies around the world, offering a hard-line vision that many analysts said seemed meant to provoke Tehran.

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

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which polices the pact, said on Thursday that Iran continued to comply with its terms, but could be faster in allowing snap inspections.

The official said that if they were unhappy with how things panned out they would seek a ministerial meeting and then decide.

Unusually for a meeting of the joint commission, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano was invited to brief the participants on the IAEA's work in Iran.

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