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Europeans scramble to salvage Iran deal after Trump reneges

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"The deal is not dead. There's an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

[WASHINGTON] Dismayed European allies sought to salvage the international nuclear pact with Iran on Wednesday after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark accord, while officials in Tehran poured scorn on the US leader.

"The deal is not dead. There's an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

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French President Emmanuel Macron would speak later in the day to his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, Le Drian said. Iran also signalled its willingness to talk.

Mr Trump announced on Tuesday he would reimpose US economic sanctions on Iran to undermine what he called "a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made".

The 2015 agreement, worked out by the United States, five other world powers and Iran, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. The pact was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

France's Mr Le Drian said Iran was honouring its commitments under the accord.

"The region deserves better than further destabilisation provoked by American withdrawal. So we want to adhere to it and see to it that Iran does too, that Iran behaves with restraint," he told French radio station RTL.

The European Union said it would remain committed to the deal and would ensure sanctions on Iran remain lifted, as long as Tehran meets its commitments.

France and others were well aware that there were concerns about issues other than nuclear capability but they too could be addressed without ditching the nuclear deal,Mr Le Drian said.

Mr Macron's contact with Mr Rouhani will be followed by meetings next week, probably on Monday, involving the Iranians and European counterparts from France, Britain and Germany.

The prospects of saving the deal depend in large measure on whether international companies are willing and able to still do business with Iran due to the US sanctions.

Mr Le Drian said meetings would also be held with firms including oil giant Total and others with major business and economic stakes in the region.

In a harbinger of what could be in store, Mr Trump's new ambassador to Germany said German businesses should halt their activities in Iran immediately.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Mr Trump's decision was a mistake and that the United States should not consider itself the world's "economic policeman".

European companies including carmaker PSA, plane manufacturer Airbus and Siemens said they were keeping a close watch on the situation.

The leaders of Britain, Germany and France, signatories to the deal along with China and Russia, said in a joint statement that Mr Trump's decision was a cause for "regret and concern."

China said it regretted the move. Its foreign ministry said Beijing would safeguard the deal and called on all relevant parties "to assume a responsible attitude".

A Western diplomat was more pointed.

"It announces sanctions for which the first victims will be Trump’s European allies," the diplomat said, adding that it was clear Mr Trump did not care about the alliance.

REUTERS