BRITAIN was scrambling with key European allies to keep alive the Iran nuclear deal amid fears of a new confrontation in the region following the dramatic withdrawal of the United States from the agreement.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said there was a need to de-escalate tensions in the wake of President Donald Trump’s warning that he was ready to impose the “highest level” of sanctions on Tehran.

President Hassan Rouhani responded with a warning of his own that Iran could restart enriching uranium – a key element of a nuclear weapons programme – “without any limitations” within a matter of weeks.

The speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani said there was now a window in which the EU could demonstrate whether it had the international clout to keep the agreement going.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian insisted the deal was not dead and said the Europeans were prepared to work towards a wider accord which would address Mr Trump’s concerns.

But with tensions already running high between Iran and Israel, he said the risks of a confrontation in the region were real.

Mr Burt sought to play down suggestions that the US was ready to launch an attack on Iran – possibly using “proxies” such as the Israelis or the Saudis, who also remain highly suspicious of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“We have no indication of anything like that,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Mr Burt acknowledged however that the president’s decision – despite appeals from Theresa May, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel not to abandon the accord – had shown the limits of European influence in Washington.

“On this issue he has not listened. That is absolutely correct. But now we have got to seek to persuade him and others there other ways of tackling the challenges he has set out,” he said.

“We won’t be seeking to make him go back on something. He won’t do that.

“But there are other ways forward and it is our job to make sure those other ways work.”

Mr Le Drian said he and his British and German counterparts would be meeting with Iranian representatives.