Britain's Hunt in Iran to discuss nuclear deal, Yemen, detainees

By Parisa Hafezi
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street, London, Britain, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt discussed the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, the conflict in Yemen and other issues in meetings with Iranian authorities in Tehran on Monday, Iranian state media reported.

Hunt's office also said that during the trip - his first to Iran as foreign minister - he would press Iran on its human rights record and call for the immediate release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so. Iranian media made no mention of this.

U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal in May and Washington has reimposed sanctions on Iran to force Tehran to drop its ballistic missile programmes, further curb its nuclear work and limit its support for proxy militias from Syria to Lebanon and Yemen.

Other signatories of the deal - the European Union, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China - have been trying to salvage it. Iran has warned it could scrap the accord if the EU fails to preserve its economic benefits from U.S. pressure.

"The Europeans should accelerate their efforts to save the deal...We are ready for all scenarios, including a return to pre-deal era," the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, told Hunt, Iranian state television reported.

Hunt said Britain was committed to the nuclear deal and discussed European efforts to maintain nuclear-related sanctions relief, Iran's state news agency IRNA reported.

"The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive," Hunt said in a statement ahead of the visit.


SPEEDING UP

Hunt and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also discussed the need to accelerate efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi-backed coalition has been battling Iran-aligned Houthi rebels for nearly four years.

"This is a part of the world which is frankly a tinderbox and so many things can go wrong here. And Iran is one of the big players and we are very, very keen to move towards peace in Yemen, that's our number one priority at the moment," Hunt told reporters, according to BBC.

In comments before the meetings, Hunt also mentioned

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 in Tehran as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.

"We have the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other internationals here, who are in prison and shouldn't be, we want to get them home. So, there is lots to talk about," Hunt said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organisation that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

There was no immediate mention of any Iranian response regarding to her case.


(The refiled story drops state tv attribution in headline).



(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in LONDON; Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Angus MacSwan)