France condemns US move to re-impose sanctions

France has condemned as “unacceptable” a US move to re-impose sanctions on companies trading with Iran. The action from Washington followed President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a landmark deal that sought to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said European companies should not have to pay for the US decision. The US says firms have six months to halt business and cannot enter into new contracts or they will face sanctions.

What has Mr Le Drian said?

In an interview with Le Parisien, the foreign minister said: “We feel that the extraterritoriality of their sanction measures are unacceptable. The Europeans should not have to pay for the withdrawal from an agreement by the United States, to which they had themselves contributed.”

He said the new sanctions regime would also affect the US and that Europeans would “put in place the necessary measures to protect the interests of our companies and start negotiations with Washington” on the matter. Mr Le Drian said the commitment of other partners to the Iran deal should be respected.

He said the effects of the US move were already being felt in rising oil costs and an increase in political uncertainty in the Middle East. France, Britain and Germany have all said they will work with Iran to try to salvage the agreement.

Which companies could be affected?
A number of French firms have have signed billion dollar agreements with Iran since the nuclear accord was signed in 2015. They include Airbus, the oil giant Total and the car makers Renault and Peugeot. They would have to wind up investments by November or face US sanctions.

What is the political ‘uncertainty’ Mr Le Drian talks of?
The latest example is the military clash between Iran and Israel in Syria.

Israel accused the Quds Force – the elite overseas operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – of launching 20 rockets at its military positions in Syria on Thursday morning. Israel said its fighter jets then struck 70 military targets belonging to Iran inside Syria.

Iran’s deployment of troops to the country to help President Bashar al-Assad has alarmed Israel.

What are the latest US sanctions moves?

On Thursday, US individuals and entities were barred from doing business with six Iranian individuals and three companies Washington says have ties to the Revolutionary Guards.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the penalties targeted those who had funnelled millions of dollars to the group, funding its “malign activity”.

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