Iran's Zarif Says China 'Pivotal' to Salvaging Nuclear Deal, China Agrees

Eileen GuzmanAug 05, 2018

USA officials have softened their stance after initially saying they would press allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to adhere to the sanctions and reduce their imports to zero.

Iran has started naval exercises in the Gulf amid heightened tensions with Washington, US officials have revealed.

Trump's policies are already putting significant pressure on the Iranian economy, although US intelligence suggests they may ultimately rally Iranians against the United States and strengthen Iran's hardline rulers, officials say.

Iran reportedly received five new commercial airplanes on Sunday in what are expected to be among the final imports to the country before the U.S.

According to Bloomberg news agency, which cited two officials familiar with the negotiations, Beijing, however, agreed not to increase purchases of Iran's crude.

India's imports from Iran could start to slow from August as some big Indian refiners worry that their access to the US financial system could be cut off if they continue to import Iranian oil, prompting them to reduce oil purchases from Tehran.

A State Department official confirmed Francis Fannon, assistant secretary of state at the US Bureau of Energy Resources, was recently in China to discuss Iranian sanctions.

China's Unipec, the trading arm of Sinopec, has suspended crude oil imports from the United States. Global sanctions were lifted under the pact between world powers and Tehran in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear program.

Washington also imposed a series of additional sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals, as well as foreign companies in Iran, squeezing Iran economically.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned the USA against any attempt to stop Tehran's oil trade, threatening to block the strategically important Strait of Hormuz.

Washington chose to reimpose sanctions and has told other countries they must halt all imports of Iranian oil from November 4 or face USA financial measures.

Iran launched a naval exercise in the Gulf on Thursday, just days before the USA reimposes sanctions on Tehran, a defence official told AFP.

Sanctions will also be reapplied to United States imports of Iranian carpets and foodstuffs and on certain related financial transactions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his nation will work to save the Iranian nuclear deal to ensure Iranian oil will continue to flow through the market, during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Zarif. It accounted for 35 percent the Iranian exports last month, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

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