Iran’s top leader warns against trusting Europe on nuclear deal

As world powers face US pressure to pull out of pact, Khameini says the 2015 agreement cannot fix country’s economic problems

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of the air force staff in Tehran, Iran, February 8, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of the air force staff in Tehran, Iran, February 8, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran’s supreme leader cautioned the country’s government on Monday not to pin its hopes on Europe as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers founders under US pressure.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website quoted him as saying the landmark 2015 nuclear deal “could not fix our economic problems.”

Khamenei’s comments came as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said Iran is complying with the deal. Yukiya Amano made his assessment in a regular update to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors, confirming a confidential report distributed to member states last month.

He said that “Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” referencing the official name of the deal. Amano added that “it is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments.”

The US and the European Union disagree over several issues, including Iran.

The nuclear deal was aimed at preventing Tehran from building atomic weapons. The US pulled out of the agreement in May 2018 and has been urging the remaining signatories — the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China — to abandon it as well. Washington also reimposed severe economic sanctions and is demanding the deal be renegotiated to put stricter limits on Iran’s nuclear program and its missile research.

Iran’s economy has suffered with inflation climbing and the local rial currency plunging in the wake of the US pullout.

The remaining signatories to the Iran deal, along with the European Union, have so far shown no inclination to abandon it, and instead have tried to provide Iran with enough economic incentives to keep it alive.

Last month, Britain, France and Germany established a barter-type system known as INSTEX that is designed to allow their businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran and thereby evade possible US sanctions. Plans call for the payment system to be run from Germany as a financial institution.

The plan has angered Washington, despite reassurances from the Europeans that their initiative would concentrate on products not currently subject to US sanctions, such as medicine, medical supplies, and agricultural goods, rather than on broader trade.

In an interview published last month with the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that should other countries bow to US pressure and refuse to buy Iranian oil, Tehran has “other options” at its disposal.

Iranian officials have intimated that should the deal fall apart, it will resume its enrichment activities at a higher pace than before the agreement.

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