Europe stares down Trump over Iran

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Zarif arrived in China to meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Sunday - the first stop on an urgent diplomatic tour to salvage the JCPOA deal.

As the US mulls the next line of action on the abandoned Iran nuclear deal, National Security Adviser John Bolton has warned that Washington is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies if their governments don't support President Donald Trump's demand to stop dealing with Iran.

Part of the flaw with the Iran deal that President Trump rejected was it enticed Europe and the U.S. into economic relations with Iran that would work against holding the country accountable for violations of the agreement, Bolton said.

"I think the Europeans will see that's in their interest ultimately to go along with this", he said.

Bolton did not rule out sanctions on European countries that do business with Iran.

US President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States was withdrawing from the 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

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But while France said it was ready to fight the US sanctions with European countermeasures, German officials said each company will have to examine the legal implications of continuing business in Iran and make their own decision about whether to stay in Iran or honor the USA sanctions.

Trump said that the deal "should have never been made".

Describing the agreement - pushed by his predecessor, Barack Obama - as "a terrible one-sided deal that should never, ever have been made", Trump warned that "any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could be strongly sanctioned".

"The talks with the Europeans, Iran and the other signatories to the agreement are therefore also about how it can be possible to continue trade with Iran", Maas said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Mr Trump agreed in a phone call that talks were needed to discuss how U.S. sanctions on Iran would affect foreign companies operating in the country. "The answer is no", Le Maire told reporters in Paris, adding that France won't accept the "vassalization of Europe" by USA officials bent on reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Promptly, "regret and concern" were expressed by America's European allies that are parties to the Iran deal - France, Britain and Germany; in a joint statement, they also asserted their "continuing commitment" to the agreement.

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All the other signatories to the deal that hobbled Iran's nuclear program - Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - agree that Tehran is in full compliance with its terms, as do the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.

Trump's action has been met with dismay among America's allies in Europe and Asia and with scathing criticism and opprobrium in the United States political circles and the liberal press.

"We are ready to talk to all the companies concerned about what we can do to minimize the negative consequences" of the USA sanctions, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio.

"Let's not fool ourselves that there are dozens of things we can do", said a second senior European diplomat.

The Trump administration portrayed its rejection of the nuclear agreement as a response, in part, to Tehran's interventions in the Middle East, underpinning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tough line towards Iran. Military tensions between Iran and Israel have already mounted, and oil prices are rising on the uncertainty.

French President Emmanuel Macron held phone talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, and the Kremlin said they had "confirmed Russia and France's commitment to make the deal work".

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Mr Zarif told reporters as he left that the meetings had been "a good start", adding: "I believe we are on the right track, now a lot depends on what we can do within the next two weeks".

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