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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Rouhani demands European trade deal 'in days'

Iranian president puts European governments under pressure to deliver on economic commitments during two-country tour

Swiss president Alain Berset, right, welcomes Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, left, during his visit to Switzerland at the Zurich airport. Peter Klaunzer / EPA 
Swiss president Alain Berset, right, welcomes Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, left, during his visit to Switzerland at the Zurich airport. Peter Klaunzer / EPA 

Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, sought to shore up European support for the troubled nuclear deal that allowed his country to re-enter the global economy with official visits to Switzerland and Austria.

The Iranian leader predicted that Europe would formulate new proposals to sustain trade and investment links with Iran despite the blow suffered when President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 agreement.

Before meeting senior Swiss leaders, Mr Rouhani said Iranian expectations were high. “European nations are meant to present in coming days their suggested package to preserve the nuclear deal,” Mr Rouhani said

Meanwhile Austria, which has long been an Iranian commercial and diplomatic entry point to Europe, has taken over the European Union's six-month rotating presidency.

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Vienna is also the home of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, which monitors Iran's compliance with the accord.

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the meeting would address Iran's role in the middle east, including efforts to spread its influence and the consequent destabilisation of its neighbours.

Mr Kurz will also find "clear words" to discuss the human rights situation in Iran, the chancellor told Austrian news agency APA.

While the nuclear deal has been the cornerstone of Mr Rouhani's promised to the Iranians to end sanctions and re-engage with the world economy, implementation of the deal has not seen benefits for ordinary citizens.

Iranians complain that foreign investment following the deal has not materialised and resources have been diverted outside the country.

Washington is expected to roll out new US sanctions against Tehran as well as pursue punitive measures against businesses from other countries that continue to operate in Iran.

High profile global businesses have announced the withdrawal from planned Iranian investments in light of the looming imposition of sanctions.

Nontheless the Iranian president is expected to sign memorandums on economic cooperation in both Austria and Switzerland.

While in Switzerland, the Iranian officials are due to sign agreements on economic cooperation, according to Iran's official IRNA news agency.

Mr Rouhani met the Swiss president, Alain Berset, and his two-day visit will coincide with a bilateral economic forum on health and nutrition, believed to be the focus of the trade deals tied to the visit. Switzerland has also said it regrets the US pull-out from the deal and expressed hope it can be salvaged. "The aim is to find ways of preserving the progress made as a result of the agreement and of ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons," a Swiss government statement said.

But the Iranian government has warned it would not continue to abide by the agreement if doing so goes against its economic interests.

Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has demanded Europe provide a number of economic guarantees in order for Tehran to continue its commitment and has ordered preparations be made to quickly restart nuclear activities in case talks collapse.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, is also on a wider tour of the continent with the same objectives.