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Europe vows to preserve Iran deal as US sanctions return

EU diplomats say they will work to protect Iran's continued export of oil and gas as US threatens 'severe consequences'.

Europe's top diplomats have vowed to work together to preserve a multinational nuclear deal with Iran, as US President Donald Trump signed an executive order paving the way for the return of biting sanctions against Tehran on Tuesday.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain said the remaining parties to the 2015 agreement will maintain "effective financial channels" with Iran and ensure its continued export of oil and gas.

"We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the US, due to the latter's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)," the statement said, referring to Trump's decision in May.

"Preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security," the statement added.

In a statement announcing the sanctions on Monday, Trump said Iran "threatens the United States and our allies, undermines the international financial system, and supports terrorism and militant proxies around the world."

In a separate statement, the White House said the first round of sanctions will be reimposed on August 7, followed by a second one on November 5.

"President Trump will continue to stand up to the Iranian regime's aggression, and the United States will fully enforce the reimposed sanctions," it said. 

It warned that those who "fail" to abide by the US sanctions against Iran will "risk severe consequences".

The White House maintained that the deal was "defective at its core" and failed to guarantee the safety of the US.

The joint statement from the European diplomats, however, said that the nuclear agreement "is working and delivering on its goal", adding that UN nuclear inspectors have confirmed in "11 consecutive reports" that Tehran is adhering to its part of the bargain.

"It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world," said the statement, which signed by Mogherini as well as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and the UK's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. 

'Maximum pressure'

Ahead of the reimposition of sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held a televised interview on Monday night in response to Trump's decision. 

Under the breakthrough 2015 deal in Vienna, the Iranian government agreed to cut down its uranium stockpile and scale back its enrichment programme far below the level required to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran also agreed in perpetuity to notify United Nations inspectors if and when it builds a new nuclear facility. 

In exchange, UN-approved sanctions were lifted in January 2016, and Tehran was allowed to resume trading oil and gas on the international market. A total of $100bn in frozen Iranian assets was also released.

The US was an original signatory to the agreement with Iran, along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the EU.

At the time, under then-president Barack Obama, the US had pledged to waive secondary American sanctions as long as Iran continued to abide by the agreement.

But Obama's successor, Donald Trump, pulled out of the pact on May 8, fulfilling a 2016 campaign promise to withdraw from a deal which he once described as the "worst ever".  

The reimposition of US sanctions against Iran on Tuesday and in the coming months is a direct result of Trump's decision.  

On Monday, US officials were quoted as saying that Washington would exert "maximum economic pressure" on Iran and force it back to the negotiating table.

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