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Iranian Says Secure Nuclear Deal Before Talks On ‘Other Issues’

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the West must ensure the success of the nuclear deal before other matters can be discussed (file photo).

A senior Iranian official says the West must ensure that the 2015 nuclear deal is a success before his country can begin to discuss other issues affecting the Middle East region.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told a conference in Paris on February 8 that the key to future negotiations on matters such as Tehran's regional activities and its missile program is to honor the terms of the nuclear accord, from which the United States has threatened to withdraw.

"Now they ask Iran to enter discussions on other issues. Our answer is clear: Make the [nuclear accord] a successful experience and then we discuss other issues," he said.

He added that U.S. President Donald Trump's policies toward Iran were "destructive" and violated the terms of the nuclear deal with six world powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia.

Araqchi rejected claims that Tehran’s activities were destabilizing the region and accused the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of fomenting tensions in the Middle East.

"We have always fought against terrorism. Iran has always played a key role in bringing stability and peace to the region...There is no link between the deal and our role in the region," he said.

It was not immediately clear whether Araqchi's comments and willingness to eventually negotiate with the West on other issues had the backing of Iran’s hard-line religious leaders who control government policy.

Tehran has repeatedly refused to discuss its missile program despite demands by the United States and the Europeans, claiming it is purely defensive in nature.

Working To 'Mitigate Concerns'

U.S. and other officials have complained that Iran's ballistic-missile program can easily be converted for nuclear use.

The United States suspended sanctions against Iran following the 2015 nuclear agreement, which provided Tehran with relief from financial sanctions in return for limits on Tehran's nuclear program.

However, the United States still imposes punitive measures over issues such as ballistic-missile development, terrorism, and human rights.

Trump has accused Iran of violating the "spirit" of the nuclear accord and has said he wants to work with European allies and Congress to fix what he called "disastrous flaws" in the accord, which was signed under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump warned that Washington would withdraw from the deal if terms were not strengthened by May.

Britain's minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said at the same Paris conference that European powers were determined to save the agreement and to work to address U.S. concerns, but he warned that Iran also needs to mitigate Western concerns over its regional activities.

"We and our European partners are absolutely clear. We want the deal to succeed," Burt said. "We don't want to see the [deal] go down, and are working with our European partners to mitigate concerns the United States may have to ensure it continues."

With reporting by Reuters and Arab News
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