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Iran's Zarif praises Macron nuclear crisis suggestions

AFP logoAFP 23/08/2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday that suggestions by French President Emmanuel Macron about defusing the crisis over Iran's nuclear drive went in the right direction, but more work needed to be done.

"President Macron made some suggestions last week to President (Hassan) Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet," Zarif told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in an interview after meeting Macron for rare talks in Paris.

"We had a good discussion today," Zarif said.

Mohammad Javad Zarif wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Zarif's talks with the French president came one day before Macron begins hosting world leaders © Lise Åserud Zarif's talks with the French president came one day before Macron begins hosting world leaders "We discussed possibilities. He (Macron) is now going to discuss with European partners and other partners to see where we can go from here," Zarif added.

The talks came one day before Macron begins hosting world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, for the three-day Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, with the Iranian nuclear programme set to be a central issue.

Tensions over Iran's nuclear programme have spiralled in the last months after Tehran ramped up its atomic activities in response to the abrupt US pullout from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed broad trade sanctions.

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Iran wants to see greater relief from the sanctions that are increasingly biting its economy, and, according to Zarif, are causing the Iranian people "tremendous stress".

'US doesn't hold all cards' 

Zarif reaffirmed that if Tehran believed Europe could begin to fulfil its side of the bargain on the nuclear deal, Iran could then reverse the measures it took to ramp up the nuclear programme.

"Once Europe starts implementing its commitments, Iran will also be prepared to reverse the steps that it has taken," Zarif said.

Mohammad Javad Zarif wearing a suit and tie © David Cantiniaux, Hassan Ayadi Pressed on what the suggestions involved, Zarif did not give specifics but said Europe needed to find ways to ease the situation for Iran even with the US no longer part of the deal.

"We are searching for ways Europe can in fact implement its commitments so that we can reverse the steps we have taken," he said.

"For us, what is important is to be able to continue to conduct business with the European Union," he said.

What is being discussed is how this can be done "with or without the US", he added.

In a message to Europe, Zarif said that it was possible to solve the issue even without the involvement of the United States in the nuclear deal.

"I do not think the US holds all the cards. If Europe and the international community decide to do so, they can in fact take measures required to sustain the deal," he said.

The 2015 nuclear deal was seen as a signature foreign policy achievement of president Barack Obama and a landmark moment in ties between United States and Iran, after relations were severed in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the pro-West Shah.

But Trump never hid his dislike of the deal and walked out of it in 2015, to the dismay of Washington's European allies.

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