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Iranian Foreign Minister visits Russia and China to try to save nuclear deal

CNN logo CNN 5/14/2018 By Ben Westcott, Sara Mazloumsaki and Samantha Beech, CNN
Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meets Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on May 13, 2018. - Iran's foreign minister arrived May 13 in Beijing on the first leg of a whirlwind diplomatic tour designed to try and rescue the nuclear deal left on the brink of collapse after the US pulled out. (Photo by THOMAS PETER / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read THOMAS PETER/AFP/Getty Images) © THOMAS PETER/AFP/Getty Images Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meets Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on May 13, 2018. - Iran's foreign minister arrived May 13 in Beijing on the first leg of a whirlwind diplomatic tour designed to try and rescue the nuclear deal left on the brink of collapse after the US pulled out. (Photo by THOMAS PETER / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read THOMAS PETER/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif touched down in Moscow on Monday morning as part of a series of international diplomatic meetings aimed at saving the Iran nuclear deal following the United States' withdrawal.

Zarif will be discussing the agreement with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Monday.

It follows a visit by the Iranian diplomat to Beijing on Sunday where he stressed the importance of keeping the accords, which were signed in 2015 with the aim of both halting Tehran's nuclear ambitions and stimulating the country's economy.

Lavrov and Zarif will discuss the "possibility of preserving the Iran nuclear deal," according to Russian state media agency TASS. Moscow has previously stated its strong support for the agreement.

US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 the US would be withdrawing from the deal, which was signed under former President Barack Obama, saying it was "defective at its core."

Trump also said he planned to reintroduce the highest level of economic sanctions on Iran.

But other countries around the world, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, have said they would like to keep the original deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), in place.

In Beijing, Zarif met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who reiterated Beijing's support for the deal, according to state media Xinhua.

"China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude, keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to work to maintain the deal," Wang said, adding the agreement was "hard-earned."

Iran: 60 days to save the deal

Under the 2015 deal, Iran would reduce its ability to enrich uranium and allow inspections by an independent agency in return for the lifting of strict sanctions which were choking the country's stagnating economy.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said Germany, France and the United Kingdom had 60 days to provide Iran *with enough guarantees to ensure it could* stay in the deal, according to IRNA.

Zarif will meet with the foreign ministers of the three European countries in Brussels on Tuesday, May 15 to discuss the future of the deal.

A number of top Iranian officials and politicians have threatened in the past week to restart the country's nuclear program following Trump's decision to leave the deal.

"The President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has been tasked with taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions," Zarif said on Friday.

But European leaders have been working hard to mollify Tehran -- UK Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday to assure him of her support for the deal.

"She said it is in both the UK and Iran's national security interests to maintain the deal and welcomed President Rouhani's public commitment to abide by its terms, adding that it is essential that Iran continues to meet its obligations," a UK government spokesperson said in a statement.

During the call, Rouhani said the US decision to withdraw from the deal was "unlawful" and "irresponsible."

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