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Iran Says It Is Negotiating 25-Year Bilateral Deal With China


Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had a fiery exchange with critics in parliament.

Iran has been negotiating a 25-year accord with China “with confidence and conviction,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told parliament on July 5, saying its terms will be announced once the deal is struck.

Zarif insisted there was nothing secret about the prospective deal, which he said was raised publicly in January 2016 when President Xi Jinping visited Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also has publicly supported a strategic bilateral partnership with China.

China is Iran's top trading partner and a key market for Iranian crude oil exports, which have been severely curtailed by U.S. sanctions.

Zarif made the comments in his first address to parliament since a new session began in late May after elections that were dominated by hard-liners.

During the session, Zarif was heckled by lawmakers largely over his key role in negotiating a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. unilaterally abandoned in 2018 before reimposing sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal saying it was not decisive enough in ensuring Iran would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon.

Trump wants Tehran to negotiate a new accord that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear program and restrict Tehran's ballistic missile program.

Iran has gradually rolled back its commitments under the accord since the United States withdrew.

The 2015 deal provided the Islamic republic relief from international sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program, but Iranian hard-liners staunchly opposed the multilateral agreement, arguing the United States could never be trusted.

Hard-liners in the Iranian parliament also said on July 5 they were seeking to summon Zarif and President Hassan Rohani to respond to accusations of "betraying the people." Several deputies called Rohani a liar as they heckled him continuously.

Lawmaker Mohammed-Taghi Nagh-Ali said during the session that Rohani and Zarif have betrayed the people and “must therefore be held responsible," according to the semiofficial ILNA news agency.

Rohani's policies have led to the country's current economic crisis, and his arguments are "no longer acceptable," Nagh-Ali said.

Some 200 members of parliament have tabled a motion to question Rohani.

Since winning their seats in February, hard-liners in Iran have been putting greater pressure on Rohani, accusing him of making too many concessions to Western nations and getting little in return.

Rohani argues that U.S. sanctions and the global coronavirus pandemic are behind the economic crisis.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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