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Iran FM on diplomatic tour to salvage nuclear deal

Foreign minister Mohammad Zarif will visit Beijing, Moscow and Brussels [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 May, 2018

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Zarif's delicate diplomatic mission has been complicated by reports of clashes between Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria.

Iran's foreign minister was due to leave on Saturday for a whirlwind diplomatic tour as world leaders scramble to salvage a landmark nuclear deal in the wake of Washington's withdrawal.

Mohammad Javad Zarif's tour starts two days after unprecedented Israeli strikes in Syria, which a monitor said killed at least 11 Iranian fighters, triggering fears of a broader conflict between the two arch-enemies.

He will visit Beijing, Moscow and Brussels, a spokesman said, holding meetings with all of the remaining parties to the 2015 agreement.

Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his Twitter page, slamming the "extremist administration" of US President Donald Trump for abandoning "an accord recognised as a victory of diplomacy by the international community". 

It reiterated that Iran was preparing to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe provided solid guarantees that it could maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions. 

Zarif's delicate diplomatic mission was complicated by reports of clashes between Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria on Thursday.

Tehran, which has sought to avoid an escalation in regional conflict that could alienate its European partners, has not commented on whether its forces were hit. 

Israel and its allies have blamed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for initiating Thursday's exchange by launching missiles into the occupied Golan Heights. 

The White House backed Israel's claims, accusing Iran of "reckless actions" that posed a "severe threat" to stability in the Middle East.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said this week he is highly doubtful that Europe will provide the "real guarantees" needed for Iran to stay in the nuclear deal. 

But analysts said Iran was determined to maintain the moral high ground in the coming weeks.

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