May 13, 2018 / 9:13 AM / 13 days ago

Rouhani says Iran may remain part of nuclear accord

DUBAI (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that Iran would remain committed to the 2015 nuclear deal if its interests were protected, while his foreign minister hoped the pact could be redesigned without Washington as a member.

FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Muslim leaders and scholars in Hyderabad, India, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

The U.S. withdrawal from the accord on Tuesday was a “violation of morals”, Rouhani said in remarks carried by state television.

“If the remaining five countries continue to abide by the agreement, Iran will remain in the deal despite the will of America,” he said.

President Donald Trump’s pullout has upset European allies, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

It has also highlighted divisions among Iran’s political elite.

Rouhani made similarly conciliatory comments on Tuesday, and on Saturday, foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif began a tour of other signatory nations in an attempt to save the deal.

Zarif said in Beijing on Sunday: “We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive agreement.”

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Zarif’s tour would improve understanding of Iran’s position and help Tehran protect its legitimate interests.

“China is willing to maintain communication and coordination with all relevant parties, including Iran, and take an objective, fair and responsible attitude to continue to safeguard the ...agreement,” Wang said.

Rouhani has said Iran will stay committed to the deal, which China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany also signed, provided those powers ensured Iran was protected from sanctions.

The three European states have recommitted to the agreement, but senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said on Friday that Europe was not to be trusted.

On Sunday, the head of the Assembly of Experts, a group of clerics responsible for choosing Iran’s supreme leader, said Rouhani should apologise for not having obtained guarantees from world powers for the agreement.

“It is necessary for the president to honestly and openly apologise to the people over the damages caused by the nuclear accord,” Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a top conservative, said in a statement carried by state media.

The head of the elite Revolutionary Guards also warned against relying on foreign powers.

“America’s exit aims to break the Iranian people’s resistance, which is not new ... but today’s problem is not U.S. sanctions, it’s that some officials look towards outside rather than looking at domestic potentials,” Guards commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari said, the state news agency IRNA reported.

On Wednesday, Jafari cast doubt on European nations’ ability to save the accord.

With the deal opposed by hardliners at home, some analysts say the pragmatic Rouhani may now be a lame duck leader.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful that the United States and Europe could agree on how to deal with Iran, after Trump threatened to sanction European companies that continue doing business there.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Pompeo said the United States was not aiming at Europe when it withdrew from the deal.

“I’m hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behaviour, not just their nuclear programme, but their missiles and their malign behaviour as well,” he said

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said sanctions could be imposed on European companies.

It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments,” Bolton said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; additional reporting by Michael Marina and Christian Shepherd in Beijing; editing by John Stonestreet and Giles Elgood

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