Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has offered to work with European leaders to negotiate a new Iran nuclear deal after the US exited the accord. However, the threat of penalties for European firms in Iran remains.
In contradictory comments on Sunday, US officials both talked up the prospect of working with European allies while also warning European firms could be punished for continuing to do business in Iran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that he hopes to work with European leaders to come up with a broader agreement to replace the Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump announced last Tuesday that he is to pull the US out of the deal.
"The withdrawal wasn't aimed at the Europeans," Pompeo told "Fox News Sunday," adding that he "worked hard" to fix the deal with European allies, but that they weren't able to reach an agreement.
"I am hopeful in the days and weeks ahead that we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior," he said. "I'll be working closely with the Europeans to try and achieve that.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have said they want to try to rework the deal to have it address areas other than Iran's nuclear program.
Deal needs to assure Iran's interests
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that he would be seeking assurances from countries that signed the Iran nuclear deal during his diplomatic tour of Beijing, Moscow and Brussels.
"The final aim of these negotiations is to seek assurances that the interests of the Iranian nation will be defended," Zarif said at a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
Lavrov meanwhile said Russia and Europe should "jointly defend their legal interests" in terms of the deal.
Bolton: Penalties still 'possible'
US National Security Adviser John Bolton took a more hardline approach, reminding European firms that they could be punished for not adhering to US sanctions.
When asked whether Washington would impose sanctions on European firms, Bolton told CNN: "It's possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments."
"I think the Europeans will see that it's in their interest, ultimately, to come along with us," he added.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has acknowledged that it would be difficult for the German government to protect firms when the US sanctions come into effect.
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal agreed to relax economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear program. So far, Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, China and Russia have said they remain committed to the deal.
Iran's foreign minister is due to meet for talks in Brussels this Tuesday with his German, French and British counterparts.
rs/ng (AFP, Reuters)