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Boris Johnson to raise Iran protests in nuclear deal talks

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LONDON — Boris Johnson will meet Iran’s foreign minister on Thursday to discuss the nuclear deal — and tell him that protestors have the right to demonstrate peacefully.

The U.K. foreign secretary is also expected to raise the case of the jailed British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during the meeting in Brusselswith Javad Zarif, which will also be attended by the French and German foreign ministers and the EU’s foreign policy chief.

In a U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefing note issued to journalists ahead of the talks, Johnson said he would be “making it clear to Foreign Minister Zarif, on the subject of the recent protests in Iran, that the right to peaceful demonstration within the law is central to any truly thriving society.”

EU leaders are desperate to shore up the nuclear deal, which ended economic sanctions in exchange for controls on Iran’s nuclear program, despite Donald Trump’s opposition to the accord.

The U.S. president has been strident in his criticism of the Iranian government, explicitly backing protestors earlier this month when he tweeted that: “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.”

The EU adopted a less strident tone in response to the anti-government protests, urging Iran to refrain from any violent crackdown on protesters and condemning the deaths of more than 20 demonstrators in recent days as “unacceptable.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will also attend the meeting with the Iranian foreign minister.

Johnson said: “The U.K. has always been clear: the Iran nuclear deal is a crucial agreement that makes the world safer. It is vital that we continue to work with our European partners to preserve the Iran deal, and with it the security and prosperity it is bringing to the people of Iran and the world. It is those shared interests which will drive our discussions in Brussels. Of course there are areas where we disagree with Iran, not least on its destabilizing regional activity and its ballistic missile program. This will be an important part of our conversation.”

Johnson also said he would “raise all of our Iranian dual-national consular cases.”

One of the most high profile of those is the plight of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to five years in jail on charges of spying and trying to topple the Iranian establishment.

Johnson visited Iran in December and said it had been “worthwhile,” but said at the time he did not want to give “false hope” about her fate.

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