18:48China Sticks to Iran Nuclear Deal After US Withdrawal - Foreign Minister

Iranians hold placards bearing anti-US slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in the capital Tehran

Iran's foreign minister said Sunday 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.

After China, the Iranian foreign minister was scheduled to fly to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and then Brussels to consult with British, French and German foreign ministers as well as European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Zarif's worldwide tour to talks to leaders across the globe in the wake of Trump's decision to quit the "flawed" deal on May 8 started with his visit to Beijing where he met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

"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", Zarif told reporters after talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

Iranian hardliners - who have long opposed President Hassan Rouhani's moves to improve ties with the West - are already mobilising against the efforts to save the nuclear deal.

China offered to hold strategic talks with Iran but did not disclose whether Beijing might scale back imports in light of renewed US sanctions.

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President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal on Tuesday, raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East, upsetting European allies and casting uncertainty over global oil supplies.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran would reduce its ability to enrich uranium and allow inspections by an independent agency in return for the lifting of strict sanctions which were choking the country's stagnating economy.

"That's what we are going to do, and I will be hard at it with the Europeans in the next several days", he said.

Russia, China, Britain, Germany, and France signed the accord and had urged Washington to remain a part of the deal, saying it was the best way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The ultimate goal of all these negotiations is to obtain assurances that the interests of the Iranian people, which are guaranteed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will be protected", Zarif said. Khamenei said last week he was highly doubtful that Europe would provide the "real guarantees" needed for Iran to stay in the nuclear deal.

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