Iran says its regional influence not linked to nuclear deal

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 08, 2018 5:58 AM

By Parisa Hafezi and John Irish

Paris (Reuters) - Iran said on Thursday there was no link between its influence in the Middle East region and its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers that has now come under fire from the U.S. administration.

With U.S. President Donald Trump warning of a last chance for "the worst deal ever negotiated", Britain, France and Germany are working on a plan to satisfy him by addressing Iran's ballistic missile tests and its regional influence while preserving the 2015 accord.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a Euromoney conference in Paris, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi gave no indication that Tehran would be willing to discuss those issues, and he accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of fomenting tensions in the Middle East.

"We have always fought against terrorism. Iran has always played a key role in bringing stability and peace to the region ... There is no link between the (nuclear) deal and our role in the region," Araqchi, also a senior negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks, told Reuters.

Trump's ultimatum has effectively put the deal on life support until mid-May.

Speaking at the same conference, Britain's Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said European powers were determined to save the deal and assuage the United States, but he warned that Iran also needed to mitigate Western concerns over its regional activities.

"We and our European partners are absolutely clear. We want the deal to succeed," Burt said. "We don't want to see the JCPOA (deal with Iran) go down and are working with our European partners to mitigate concerns the United States may have to ensure it continues."

Negotiations between Europeans and the U.S. officials to meet Trump's conditions are ongoing.

The first challenge the Europeans face is dissecting divergent U.S. statements about what Trump wants to keep issuing "waivers" to U.S. sanctions. Without the waivers, which expire May 12, the U.S. sanctions return, effectively killing the deal.

"Iran also needs to avoid taking actions which threaten regional security," Burt said specifically pointing to claims that Tehran has supplied ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran has denied those allegations and has repeatedly said its missile program is purely defensive.

Iran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's civil war, Shi'ite militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

"Iran has always played a key role in establishing peace, restoring security and fighting against terrorism across the region," Araqchi said. "Policies of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States have led to crises and wars in the Middle East."

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)