18:19 GMT06 March 2021
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    Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear accord's Western European signatories over their demand that Tehran return to compliance with the nuclear deal, questioning what the countries had done to save the agreement after Washington's dramatic 2018 withdrawal.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with her Iranian counterpart President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday and brought up Berlin's concern over Tehran's non-compliance with the JCPOA, Reuters has reported, citing a spokesperson.

    "She expressed her concern that Iran continues to fail to meet its obligations under the nuclear agreement," Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

    Merkel is said to told Rouhani that "now was the time for positive signals that create trust and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution" to the nuclear dispute.

    Rouhani is reported to have told Merkel that the only way to preserve the JCPOA was for the US to lift its "inhumane and illegal US sanctions," and for Europe to prove its commitments to the agreement "in practice."

    Alireza Moezi, a deputy to Rouhani's chief of staff, confirmed that the conversation had taken place on Twitter, saying it was the first direct contact between Rouhani and a Western European signatory to the JCPOA since Biden's inauguration last month.

    During the conversation, Rouhani also reportedly mentioned Iran's diplomatic initiatives for Middle East security, including the Hormuz Peace Plan, as well as the urgent need to resolve the Yemen crisis and the humanitarian catastrophe amid the ongoing Saudi-led military campaign in that country. The Iranian president also mentioned to Merkel the importance of deepening Iranian-German relations, particularly trade relations.

    Earlier Wednesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that Iran wants to see "actions not words" from the remaining parties to the nuclear agreement. "We have heard many nice words and promises which in practice have been broken and opposite actions have been taken. Words and promises are no good. This time [we want] only action from the other side and we will also act," the Ayatollah said in a televised address.

    Also on Wednesday, Rouhani told members of his cabinet that Iran has never pursued and will not pursue nuclear weapons, while adding that it was the Islamic Republic's "right" to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

    "In this regard, the opinion of the Supreme Leader and the fatwa is the principle for us and we will not break our commitment," the president added, referring to Khamenei's religious ruling outlawing the creation of use of nuclear weapons.

    'Trump Texted Me Eight Times'

    At the cabinet meeting, Rouhani also recalled his 2018 trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and said that then-President Donald Trump had texted him repeatedly to try to arrange a meeting.

    "We went to the United Nations at the end of September 2018, and on the first day of the General Assembly, after Trump's speech, he texted me eight times and wanted to meet with me," Rouhani said. "I rejected," he added.

    Rouhani also revealed that French President Emmanuel Macron had communicated to him during his 2019 UN trip that Trump would agree to immediately rejoin the nuclear accord if Iran agreed to add to clauses to the JCPOA on Iran's role in the region and its missile programme. It is Iran's firm position not to agree for any changes to be made to the agreement, he said.

    Inspections Deadline

    The International Atomic Energy Agency announced Wednesday that Director General Rafael Grossi will visit Tehran on Saturday for talks with senior Iranian officials to try to find a "mutually agreeable solution" to allow inspectors to continue making inspections in the country. Earlier this week, the Iranian government announced plans to block snap IAEA inspections if other parties to the JCPOA do not fulfil their commitments under the agreement before 21 February.

    After the US withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, Iran provided its European signatories with a one year window to try to come up with a mechanism to avoid or soften the blow of crushing US energy and banking sanctions. They failed to do so, prompting Tehran to begin withdrawing from some of its commitments on uranium stockpiling and enrichment levels. Last month, Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation announced that it had begun enriching uranium to 20 percent at its Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, far above the 3.67 percent limit outlined by the JCPOA, but also far below the 90 percent enrichment requirement for uranium to be considered weapons-grade.

    In January, Tehran expressed hope that the Biden administration would make good on the president's election promises to return to the nuclear deal. These hopes have been dampened by the White House's demand that Iran return to full compliance with the accord first. Tehran maintains that its is up to the US to drop its anti-Iran sanctions first, since it was Washington which violated the terms of the agreement in the first place.

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