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Iran says it is close to oil deal with Europe

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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamad Zavad Zarif has been sounding far more optimistic of late.

New York

IRAN'S Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday that Teheran was closing in on an agreement to sell oil to European nations despite US threats of sanctions against any country that does business with Iran.

If the arrangement comes to fruition - some British and French officials say they have their doubts - it would constitute the most open break between President Donald Trump and European allies that objected vociferously to his decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Several of those nations openly confronted Mr Trump on Wednesday, when he led a UN Security Council meeting about weapons of mass destruction. They argued that he was throwing away the best chance the world has to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons in the coming years.

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In an hour-long conversation with reporters, Mr Zarif, who negotiated the nuclear accord with John Kerry, who was then the US secretary of state, sounded far more optimistic than he had in recent months that he could peel away America's allies to break Mr Trump's effort to cut off Iran's revenues.

Mr Zarif is capitalising on a renewed enthusiasm among some of the allies to push back at what they term bullying by Washington to sever ties with Iran simply because Mr Trump decided to forsake the nuclear pact.

All the other signatories to the agreement - Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia - have vowed to stand by it. "No sovereign country or organisation can accept that somebody else decides with whom you are allowed to do trade," Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, said this past week.

At the core of the agreement that Iran and Europe are trying to forge is a mechanism for paying for Iran's oil in barter and local currencies, rather than in US dollars.

The idea is to route transactions around the US and prevent it from blocking financial transfers - and perhaps from identifying those involved in the transactions. Trump administration officials argue that the agreement is deeply flawed because it does not permanently ban Iran from producing nuclear fuel - it is free to do so after 2030 - and does nothing to stop Iran's missile exports, its activity in Syria and its support of terrorist groups. NYTIMES