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EU making progress on protecting Iran trade: French FM

(News Desk) – French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the European Union has made some progress on measures to protect the bloc’s companies from US sanctions on Iran but they are still insufficient.

“We have moved forward on one point, which is the implementation of a European rule that dates from 1996 which we have modernized and allows us to protect our firms against this American pressure, but that is not enough,” he told France’s LCI television.

However, there is still a need to create financial mechanisms away from the dollar, in euros or other currencies, that will help firms dealing with Iran, and for Tehran to be able to export its oil, he added.

The 1996 rules allowed Europe to protect its companies from sanctions imposed by US on Cuba and other countries.

The comments come as France, Germany and Britain, as three European signatories to the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA, are scrambling to protect their businesses from new American sanctions following US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal form the deal.

A reinvigoration of those regulations could also facilitate efforts to save the JCPOA from constant US threats of banning companies from its market of they engage in business with Iran.

Other countries affected by unilateral US sanctions, like Russia, have also proposed the use of euro or other currencies in transactions with the EU.

The US has used its lobby to prevent such a decision as skirting dollar in the relatively large amount of economic activity between Russia and the EU could seriously undermine Washington’s global clout.

Reuters on Friday quoted Western diplomats as saying that the remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal have warned the United States that its decision to withdraw from the pact jeopardizes non-proliferation efforts.

In pulling out of the 2015 deal, Trump triggered the revival of sanctions against the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), which oversees the Arak heavy water research reactor and the Fordow fuel enrichment plant.

Under the deal, the Arak reactor was to be redesigned to render it unable to make plutonium under normal operation, while the Fordow plant was to stop enriching uranium and be converted into a nuclear, physics and technology center.

The restoration of U.S. sanctions on AEOI would expose non-US companies to the risk of punishment by the United States for dealing with it, including Chinese state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. and Russia’s Rosatom, which are doing nonproliferation work respectively at Arak and Fordow.

At a meeting in Vienna last Friday, the non-US parties to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran – discussed the subject extensively, with Beijing and Moscow stressing their concerns, Reuters quoted European diplomats as saying.

One senior European diplomat called the situation “crazy” and said the US withdrawal risked triggering a proliferation problem because its sanctions may halt work on Arak and Fordow.

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