Mohammad Javad Zarif is in China on the first leg of a diplomatic offensive that aims to keep the deal alive and limit damage from US sanctions after the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing
Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing (Reuters)

Iran's foreign minister said Sunday he was hopeful of forging a "clear future design" for the nuclear deal facing collapse after Washington's withdrawal, at the start of a diplomatic tour aimed at rescuing the agreement.

"We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive agreement," Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters after talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

Zarif will later fly to Moscow and Brussels to consult the remaining signatories to the 2015 agreement denounced by US President Donald Trump.

Washington's decision to withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions angered its European allies as well as China and Russia.

China was one of the six powers – with the United States, Russia, France, the UK and Germany – that signed the historic pact, which saw sanctions lifted in return for the commitment by Tehran not to acquire nuclear weapons. 

As he arrived in Beijing, Zarif said Tehran was "ready for all option(s)", according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

"If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured," he added.

After their meeting, Zarif and Wang hailed the "comprehensive strategic partnership" between their countries, with the Chinese minister saying: "I hope and believe that these visits to multiple countries will... help protect Iran's legitimate national interests and peace and stability in the region."

Violation of morals

Backing up the diplomatic offensive, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that Tehran would remain committed to its 2015 nuclear deal if its interests can be protected and said the US withdrawal from the accord was a "violation of morals".

"The U.S. withdrawal ... is a violation of morals, the correct way to carry out politics and diplomacy and against international regulations," Rouhani said during a meeting with visiting Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena.

"If the remaining five countries continue to abide by the agreement, Iran will remain in the deal despite the will of America," Rouhani said in the remarks carried by state television.

Zarif embarked on the tour as regional tensions spiked just days after unprecedented Israeli strikes in Syria which a monitor said killed at least 11 Iranian fighters, triggering fears of a broader conflict between the two arch-enemies.

Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his Twitter page, slamming Trump's "extremist administration" for abandoning "an accord recognised as a victory of diplomacy by the international community". 

It reiterated that Iran was preparing to resume "industrial scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe provided solid guarantees it could maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions. 

Trump hit back Saturday evening, tweeting that the accord had failed to contain Iran's militarism.

"Iran's Military Budget is up more than 40 percent since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached... just another indicator that it was all a big lie," he wrote.

Zarif's delicate diplomatic mission was complicated by the reports of clashes between Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria on Thursday.

Source: AFP