Europe, China, Russia to meet Iran on Friday in Vienna

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BEIJING/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from China, France, Germany, Britain and Russia will meet with Iranian officials on Friday in Vienna to discuss how to keep a 2015 nuclear accord alive after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in May.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirmed the meeting in a statement on Wednesday after Iranian state news agency IRNA announced the meeting a day earlier.

China’s foreign minister and state councilor, Wang Yi, said he would go to Vienna, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would take part.

Iran requested the meeting, IRNA and European diplomats said, to discuss European efforts to salvage the international nuclear pact in the face of Trump’s May 8 decision to revive Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods.

The sanctions start to come into effect in August but some European companies investing in Iran and with big operations in the United States have announced they will pull out of business deals with Tehran.

The European Commission is proposing that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid U.S. penalties, but detailed plans have yet to emerge.

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, is determined to save the nuclear accord by keeping money flowing to Tehran as long as Iran complies with the 2015 deal to prevent it from developing an atomic weapon.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Maria Kiselyova and Robin Emmott; Editing by Janet Lawrence