US says sanctions 'possible' on European companies
Iran, China hail 'comprehensive strategic partnership'
Rouhani signals willingness to remain in nuke deal
Iran's foreign minister yesterday said he was hopeful of forging a "clear future design" for the nuclear deal facing collapse after Washington's withdrawal, at the start of a diplomatic tour aimed at rescuing the agreement.
"If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured," Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters after talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
Zarif will later fly to Moscow and Brussels to consult the remaining signatories to the 2015 agreement denounced by US President Donald Trump.
Zarif and Wang hailed the "comprehensive strategic partnership" between their countries, with the Chinese minister saying: "I hope and believe that these visits to multiple countries will... help protect Iran's legitimate national interests and peace and stability in the region."
Washington's decision to withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions angered its European allies as well as China and Russia.
Meanwhile casting more shadows on the future of the deal, US National Security Adviser John Bolton yesterday said sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal are "possible".
"It's possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments," Bolton said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Tehran's chief diplomat embarked on the tour as regional tensions spiked just 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.
Before the tour Zarif reiterated that Iran was preparing to resume "industrial scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe provided solid guarantees it could maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions.
Trump hit back Saturday evening, tweeting that the accord had failed to contain Iran's militarism.
"Iran's Military Budget is up more than 40 percent since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached... just another indicator that it was all a big lie," he wrote.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week he was highly doubtful that Europe would provide the "real guarantees" needed for Iran to stay in the nuclear deal. The head of the elite Revolutionary Guards also warned against relying on foreign powers to guarantee Iran's interests.
But analysts said Iran was determined to maintain the moral high ground in the coming weeks.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday said that, if its interests were protected, Tehran would remain committed to its 2015 nuclear deal.
"If the remaining five countries continue to abide by the agreement, Iran will remain in the deal despite the will of America," he said during a meeting with Sri Lanka's president.