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World

AFP
May 18, 2018

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EU vows to block blow of US Iran sanctions

SOFIA: The EU said Thursday it will begin moves to block the effect of US sanctions on Iran as efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran deepened a transatlantic rift.The decision came as Russia and China took some of their most concrete moves yet to extend their economic influence in Iran, in the face of renewed US efforts to choke off Tehran.

US President Donald Trump last week controversially pulled Washington out of the 2015 international deal with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear programme in return for easing economic sanctions.

European companies that invested in Iran after the deal are already taking fright, with French energy giant Total warning it could pull out, and Danish shipping giant Maersk and German insurer Allianz also saying they plan to wind down activities there.

After EU leaders discussed Iran at a meeting in Bulgaria, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc would start measures on Friday to ease the effect of the US sanctions on European companies.

“We will begin the ‘blocking statute’ process, which aims to neutralise the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions in the EU. We must do it and we will do it tomorrow morning at 10:30,” Juncker said at the summit in Sofia.

The “blocking statute” is a 1996 regulation originally created to get around Washington’s trade embargo on Cuba, which prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanction laws, and says no foreign court judgments based on these laws have any effect in the European Union. However, the Cuba row was settled politically, so the blocking regulation’s effectiveness was never put to the test, and its value may lie more as a bargaining chip with Washington.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that one reason for the efforts to prop up the Iran deal is “so that our businesses can remain” in Iran.The EU leaders pledged at the meeting to keep a united front against Trump, whose decisions to pull out of the Iran deal and to impose trade tariffs on Europe have triggered the worst transatlantic crisis since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.EU President Donald Tusk renewed attacks on Trump at the summit Thursday, suggesting that the US administration was now as unpredictable as Iran’s regime.

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