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A day before US president Donald Trump is expected to continue granting Iran a reprieve from sanctions over its nuclear program, while again signaling his displeasure with the global nuclear deal that lifted the penalties, the EU-28 foreign ministers met their Irani counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels.

The White House faces a January 12 deadline over waiving the sanctions.Other signatories to the deal, which include China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, have urged caution.

The 2015 pact is underpinned on the USA side by a presidential waiver of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran's central bank. After talks in Moscow on Wednesday Zarif tweeted a warning.

Iranian officials have ruled out a renegotiation, and all other parties to the accord, as well as many disarmament advocates and nuclear scientists, have reiterated their support for it.

The messages from the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany sought to acknowledge the range of Western concerns including Iran's ballistic missile development and the crackdowns following street protests across Iran earlier this month.

The sanctions, which were suspended in 2016, had cut Iran's central bank out of the worldwide financial system and imposed penalties for buying Iranian oil. The president's national security team has been supportive of the protests and is now faced with the challenge of convincing the president that it is still worth signing off on allowing the regime to sell its oil and conduct financial transactions free of US sanctions. In particular there is sympathy with the U.S. push to end the deal's "sunset clauses", which phase out restrictions on Iranian activities in the next decade.

She also said any doubts the European Union harboured over Iran's development of ballistic missiles, or its overall policy of interference across the Middle East, were separate from the nuclear deal - also known as the JCPOA.

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In a Washington Post op-ed published last Thursday berating the Obama administration for its handling of Iran, Vice President Mike Pence said that additional actions definitely were an option, given the latest protests.

Juan Zarate, a former assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that immediate sanctions could be imposed to "isolate and pressure the Revolutionary Guard and the regime leadership by spotlighting human rights abuses, corruption, support to terrorists and militant proxies, and the progress of their ballistic missile program in violation of United Nations sanctions".

USA officials and others familiar with the administration's deliberations told The Associated Press that Trump is likely to back the accord for now but that he may pair his decision with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people.

He went on to add, "Salehi told Amano that under such conditions, the Agency should be prepared for decreased cooperation from Iran if the United States government violates the nuclear deal".

"The European Union has expressed a very clear position on the nuclear deal as it was stated by the 28 European Union members states minister already in October a year ago and repeated again today: the deal is working", Mogherini told a press conference. Mr Straw detected a "pretty high degree of questioning about where Iran goes", he told the Guardian newspaper.

Such a move would offer some relief in Europe, where leaders fear unilateral US sanctions on Iran could unravel the nuclear deal hammered out between Iran and six world powers.

Mr Trump must decide whether to keep economic sanctions frozen against Iran - a corner stone of the 2015 deal - from today because of a series of rolling deadlines.


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