European Union leaders back Iran deal at Zarif summit

Bulgaria EU to Host Meeting with Iran on Nuclear Treaty Thursday

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom and the EU's foreign policy chief reiterated strong support for the Iran nuclear deal after a meeting Thursday with the Iranian foreign minister.

The meeting comes one day before a US deadline requiring President Donald Trump to once again decide whether the USA will continue backing the deal.

"The accord is essential and there is no alternative", France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

Some analysts are quick to note that the Iran deal as it is written does not preclude the United States or other world powers from exacting new sanctions against Iranian officials or entities - as long as the new sanctions are not tied to the nuclear dispute.

Trump openly despises the deal - a central foreign policy achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama - but has so far continued to waive the nuclear-related sanctions at regular intervals as required to stay in compliance.

"The deal is working, it is delivering on its main goal which means keeping the Iranian nuclear programme in check and under close surveillance", Mogherini said after the end of the meeting.

"All parties should uphold the deal", he said, speaking through a translator.

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Zarif said the Iranian people "have every right" to all the "dividends" resulting from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

"It is vital that we continue to work with our European partners to preserve the Iran deal, and with it the security and prosperity it is bringing to the people of Iran and the world".

The discord over Iran adds to a long list of disputes that have come between the USA and the European Union - from trade protectionism to environmental policies, and from Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to his threat of unilateral military action against North Korea. A snap-back on sanctions would cause the "dislocation of at least 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude oil exports, especially those going to Korea and Japan as well as to some European countries".

European officials have however conceded that Mr Trump's frustration over weaker aspects of the deal is well grounded and deserves support.

His decision is also further complicated by recent mass anti-government protests in Iran, made up mostly of youths complaining of economic hardship. But some liberal Democrats who support the deal want to pass legislation that would make it harder for Trump to pull Washington out without congressional consent.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted that Iran had not violated the deal, citing the International Atomic Energy Agency's assessment.

In October, he refused to certify Iran was complying with the deal but stopped short of withdrawing from it, instead passing the issue of reimposing the sanctions to Congress.

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