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China backs Iran's 'reasonable demands' on nuclear deal

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) gestures as he speaks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on 19 February 2019. [HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images]
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) gestures as he speaks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on 19 February 2019. [HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images]

Beijing supports Tehran's "reasonable demands" regarding the Iran nuclear deal, China's president said on Monday, Anadolu Agency reported.

Xi Jinping extended the assurance during a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

"China supports Iran's reasonable demands concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] on the Iranian nuclear issue, and stands ready to strengthen coordination with Iran and safeguard the common interests of both sides," Xi told Rouhani.

The high-level exchange between China and Iran comes after the two countries signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement on March 27 as part of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The $400 billion deal was on the cards since President Xi's visit to Tehran in January 2016.

The future of the 2015 nuclear pact has been uncertain since the US withdrew from it in 2018 and slapped more sanctions on Iran, deepening the rift between Tehran and Washington and its allies.

READ: Iran uses crypto mining to lessen impact of sanctions, study finds

Iran and the other signatories of the agreement – France, the UK, Germany, Russia, China, and the EU – started talks last month in Vienna to salvage the deal.

Amid the impasse, Tehran has moved ahead with its nuclear program, while reducing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The UN agency struck a three-month monitoring deal with Tehran in February, which ended on Saturday but may be extended for a month, despite opposition from the Iranian parliament.

Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, has been holding talks with Iranian officials on extending the arrangement, with Iran's Foreign Ministry also having hinted at the possibility of a "conditional extension."

The extension is likely in view of the ongoing Vienna talks and the upcoming presidential election in Iran on June 18, according to a report by Iran's Nour News Agency on Sunday that cited an unnamed official of the country's Supreme National Security Council.

READ: Beijing bans China workers from returning home after COVID-19 detected among coworkers

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