Bolton says 'it's possible' USA will sanction European companies working with Iran

Iran, Gaza, Trump's steel and aluminium tariffs on the menu at EU leaders' dinner in Sofia

Iran, Gaza, Trump's steel and aluminium tariffs on the menu at EU leaders' dinner in Sofia

"We're not there, we're beginning the process", Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters after meeting his French, British and German counterparts in Brussels.

He said he was "ready for all options", adding: "If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured".

"We will also hold a Joint Commission meeting in Vienna next week at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers or Political Directors - which is the usual level at which the Joint Commission meets - and obviously in the coming days we will continue to work along these lines following the good exchanges we had today", she went on.

U.S. President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

Accordingly, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would remain in the worldwide nuclear deal in case the country's interests are secured by other parties to the agreement. The minister said he wanted France, Germany and Britain to reach out to the US administration and ask for "exemptions, additional deadlines, or to respect the contracts that have been agreed in good faith by our businesses in Iran".

"I understand perfectly well that Iran wishes to protect its legitimate interests", Lavrov said.

It is the only major Western energy company that plunged into a business deal with Iran once sanctions were lifted in 2016, signing a $1 billion investment in the offshore South Pars gas field.

The commission members were "very well aware that there is no one magic option which can be applied", said a senior European Union official, who added that measures would take time to come into effect.

"It won't be easy, that's clear to all of us".

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EU leaders aim to show a united front on preserving the Iran deal when they meet for a pre-summit dinner in Sofia on Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk said.

So far, China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and Iran remain in the accord, which placed controls on Iran's nuclear program and led to a relaxation of economic sanctions against Iran and companies doing business there.

"Unfortunately once again we see that Washington is trying to revise key global agreements as it happens to Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as it happens to Jerusalem (al-Quds) problem and a number of other agreements", the top Russian diplomat said.

"One of the questions that we need to ask the Americans is whether their final objective is to make the Iranians yield on its nuclear programme or to get rid of the regime", said a senior French official, acknowledging that Paris was concerned by the ideological shift in Washington since John Bolton was appointed White House national security adviser.

In the aftermath of Washington's pullout, Europeans are seeking ways to protect the interests of their firms doing business in Iran and help them escape the brunt of the upcoming USA sanctions.

German exports to Iran totaled almost 3 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in 2017, while French exports soared from 562 million euros ($670 million) in 2015 to 1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) in 2017 and oil giant Total has pledged to invest some $5 billion in the South Pars gas field.

"It would not stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons".

However, on Tuesday the USA hit Iran's central bank governor with sanctions.

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