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Iran hails ‘optimistic’ talks to salvage nuclear deal despite new US sanctions

Talks to salvage the Iran nuclear deal have made a “positive start”, the country’s foreign minister has said, despite fresh sanctions imposed by the US.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said he had held a “constructive” meeting in Brussels with his European counterparts, including Boris Johnson, following Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact.

It came as the US handed out new anti-terror sanctions on the head of Iran’s central bank, barring anyone around the world from doing business with him.

Valiollah Seif was named a “specially designated global terrorist” along with another senior official, Ali Tarzali, who works in the central bank’s international division.

The US Treasury Department accused the men of secretly funnelling millions of dollars through an Iraqi bank to help Hezbollah, the militant network that the US considers a terrorist group.

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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
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Mr Johnson and Mr Zarif held ‘positive’ talks

The move follows Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 deal aimed at stopping Iran developing nuclear weapons, calling it “decaying and rotten”.

Following a meeting with British, French and German foreign ministers, Mr Zarif said there had been a “positive start with solid political commitments” in their bid to continue the pact.

“All agreed that much remains to be done in coming weeks to practically guarantee economic benefits for Iranian people,” he said.

Mr Johnson said the UK remained “fully committed” to upholding the agreement amid concerns that sanctions will also damage European business interests.

The foreign secretary also called on Washington “to avoid any actions that could prevent the remaining parties to the agreement from meeting their commitments under the deal – including delivering sanctions relief through legitimate trade”.



U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after announcing his intent to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst





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‘The US no longer makes empty threats’

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, has been examining measures to counter the introduction of any US sanctions that might harm European businesses and is expected to unveil them to EU leaders at a meeting in Bulgaria on Wednesday.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told Sky News: ‘We are operating in a very difficult context, the EU people know, the Iranian people know that.

“Having said that, we are determined to ensure the Iran deal stays in place.”

The EU’s energy commissioner is also travelling this week to Iran to discuss strengthening European energy support to the Islamic Republic.

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