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Europe's demand for more talks does not help Iran nuclear deal - cleric

GENEVA (Reuters) - Europe is not helping preserve an accord on Iran’s nuclear programme by asking for additional talks on issues like missiles, powerful anti-Western cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said on Tuesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

FILE PHOTO: Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati (R), a candidate for the upcoming vote on the Assembly of Experts, and Iran's former chief negotiator Saeed Jalili attend a conservatives election campaign gathering in Tehran February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA

Jannati is the head of the Assembly of Experts, an influential body that can select and dismiss the supreme leader, the highest authority in Iran.

Last week, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tehran should be ready to negotiate on its future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen. Iran’s foreign ministry rejected the idea.

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May and is re-imposing sanctions on Tehran. The other parties to the accord - China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany- are trying to find ways to save the agreement.

“Europe has announced that they won’t leave the deal,” Jannati said, according to IRNA. “In practice, by bringing up a discussion of missiles and other issues they are not following an appropriate path.”

Last month, the European Union decided to provide 18 million euros ($21 million) in aid to Iran to offset the impact of U.S. sanctions, part of efforts to salvage the deal.

The European signatories to the deal are looking into opening a Euro account for Iran in European banks where the Islamic Republic’s oil income can be deposited, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said Tuesday, according to Fars News.

Araqchi also said that European countries have to make a decision to back Iran even if it means paying a cost.

“If you believe that the nuclear deal is a security issue for Europe ... which you say it is, you have to pay a cost,” Araqchi said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “You can’t have a situation where you establish their security and at the same time your companies don’t get sanctioned.”

If Europe cannot give guarantees for Iran’s oil income and its banking sector by November, when the U.S. plans a round of oil sanctions, then there is no point for the Islamic Republic to stay in the nuclear deal, Araqchi said.

Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested that the United States is trying to pressure Iran through sanctions, though he did not explicitly name the United States.

“The enemy says ‘I want an Iran that’s in my control, that’s in my fist,’” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state TV. “This is impossible...They want to pull us back 40 years, to surrender.”

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg