TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday asked the European Union to stand against the United States’ "illegal and illogical” actions, saying that after Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Tehran could stay in the accord only if it fully benefits from it.
"Iran can stay in the JCPOA (the nuclear deal) only if it fully benefits from the deal,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to German, French and British counterparts in recent days to discuss cooperation over Iran, a State Department spokeswoman said on Monday a week after President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
"He is hopeful we can continue strong cooperation,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The White House on Sunday threatened to impose sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran after Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 accord negotiated by the Obama administration.
Pompeo was in Pyongyang when Trump made the announcement and senior State Department officials said the secretary will try to persuade allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia to pressure Tehran to return to talks.
White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday U.S. sanctions on European companies that maintain business dealings with Iran were "possible” although Pompeo has remained hopeful Washington.
So far, China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and Iran remain in the accord, which placed controls on Iran’s nuclear program and led to a relaxation of economic sanctions against Iran and companies doing business there.
In a statement, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said after talks with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, that both countries were determined "to conserve the essence of the Iran nuclear deal.”
"I want to stress that that does not mean we are in any sense not going to be working with the Americans,” Johnson said, adding: "it’s vital that we continue to engage with the USA and continue to interrogate our friends in Washington about how they see the nuclear deal developing.”
Foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany – signatories of the 2015 deal – held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, amid concerns that the sanctions will also damage European business interests.
"The UK and our European partners continue to view the nuclear deal as vital for our shared security, and remain fully committed to upholding it,” Johnson said ahead of the talks.
"We will look at potential options for supporting continued sanctions relief for Iran to ensure we meet our commitments under the deal, as well as calling on Iran to continue to abide by the restrictions the deal places upon their nuclear program,” he said.
Johnson also called on Washington "to avoid any actions that could prevent the remaining parties to the agreement from meeting their commitments under the deal - including delivering sanctions relief through legitimate trade.”
Earlier Tuesday, Zarif said he had a "very good and constructive” meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who helps to supervise the UN Security Council-endorsed agreement.
After an hour-long meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Zarif said he believed both sides were "on the right track” to make sure that the interests of the deal’s "remaining participants, particularly Iran, will be preserved and guaranteed.”
The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, has been examining measures to counter the introduction of any U.S. sanctions that might harm European businesses and is expected to unveil them to EU leaders at a meeting in Bulgaria on Wednesday.
Among them is the possible use of an EU "blocking regulation” which would, in essence, ban European companies from respecting American sanctions where those sanctions might damage EU interests, notably trade and the movement of capital.
The regulation, which has been brandished as a threat in the past but never actually used, was drawn up more than 20 years ago and would have to be revised.
It’s unclear how well the measure could be enforced, given that big multinationals are likely to be doing more business in the U.S. than they are in Iran and may be unwilling to compromise that market access.
The EU’s energy commissioner is also traveling this week to Iran to discuss strengthening European energy support to the Islamic Republic.