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Zarif condemns US efforts to persuade allies to pull out of Iran deal

From left, Head of Mission of People's Republic of China to the European Union Hailong Wu, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifat, an unidentified Russian official, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. (U.S. State Department/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s foreign minister has condemned Washington’s efforts to press European allies to pull out of a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 17, Mohammad Javad Zarif said that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence “arrogantly demanded that Europe must join the United States in undermining its own security and breaking its obligations.”

Zarif addressed the conference a day after Pence urged European powers Germany, France, and Britain to follow Washington in withdrawing from the deal and to “stop undermining U.S. sanctions.”

Zarif also said that a barter-type system known as INSTEX — set up last month by France, Germany, and Britain to allow businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran, and thereby evade possible U.S. sanctions — is not enough.

He said the European countries needed to do more to show their commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran.

“Many around the world, particularly on this continent, speak eloquently about multilateralism, but they also need to walk the walk,” Zarif said.

“For instance, INSTEX falls short of the commitments by the [European countries] to save the nuclear deal. Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against a dangerous tide of U.S. unilateralism,” he told the annual gathering of world leaders, top defense officials, and diplomats.

The 2015 agreement provides Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

The three European nations, as well as Russia, China, and the European Union as a whole, have been struggling to save the deal with Iran since President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of it last year and re-imposed sanctions.

Trump said the nuclear deal’s terms were not strict enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking at the Munich conference on February 16, Pence slammed INSTEX, and urged others to abandon the nuclear deal entirely.

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,” Pence said.

“The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” he said.

Before Pence spoke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the Iran deal as an important channel to Tehran, stressing the need for international diplomacy.

Merkel said that while she shared concerns about Iran’s missile program and regional ambitions, it was important to keep “the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas.”