Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran would remain in a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, despite the withdrawal of the United States — but only if other countries can "guarantee Iran's interests."
Rouhani's comments came as he met with top-ranking Austrian officials in Vienna, where the nuclear deal was finalized in 2015, in an effort to preserve the pact after President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE announced in May that he would abandon it.
"Iran will protect the nuclear deal if it can benefit from it," Rouhani said at a joint news conference with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, according to the Iranian president's office.
"But this must be balanced and if signatories other than the U.S. can guarantee Iran's interests, Iran will stay in the deal without the U.S.," he added.
Rouhani and other Iranian officials, concerned about the re-implementation of U.S. sanctions, are locked in an intense effort to convince world powers to remain in the 2015 agreement — officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is set to meet with counterparts from the five other countries in the nuclear deal — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China — on Friday in a bid to save the deal, which sought to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief from the U.S. and others.
The pact was seen as one of former President Obama's key foreign policy achievements.
But Trump had long railed against the JCPOA as a diplomatic and national security failure, because it focused on Iran's nuclear ambitions without addressing other activities, like Tehran's backing of groups deemed terrorist organizations by the U.S.
Since Trump's announcement of the U.S. withdrawal in May, his administration has sought to reimpose sanctions on Iran and has encouraged other countries to do the same. The U.S. is also pressing allies to cut out Iranian oil imports entirely by Nov. 4.
Trump's withdrawal from the deal, however, was widely rebuked, even by allies in Europe who see the JCPOA as the framework for curbing Iran's nuclear program. Van der Bellen stood by the deal after his meeting with Rouhani on Wednesday.
"Austria and the European Union are ready to maintain and deepen the framework for cooperation with Iran," he said, according to Bloomberg News.