Sat, May 12, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Europe no ‘vassal,’ should trade with Iran, minister says


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an interview in New York City on Thursday.

Photo: Bloomberg

The French minister of finance yesterday said that European nations should push back harder against the administration of US President Donald Trump over the Iran nuclear deal and not act as “vassals” to the US, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the US withdrawal from the Iran accord was not a reason to dump decades of trans-Atlantic ties altogether.

The back and forth came as thousands of Iranians took to the streets in cities across the nation to protest Trump’s decision.

European governments are scrambling for ways to save billions of dollars in trade that could collapse because of Trump’s decision this week to reimpose sanctions.

Trump argued that the 2015 nuclear deal, which allowed for the lifting of sanctions, was not tough enough on Iran.

French Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire said on Europe-1 radio that Europe should not accept that the US is the “world’s economic policeman.”

“Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?” Le Maire asked. “Or do we want to say we have our economic interests, we consider we will continue to do trade with Iran?”

Merkel took a more measured tone.

“This is a serious event, we have to say that, but it is not a reason to call into question the entire trans-Atlantic partnership,” she said during an appearance in the western German city of Muenster.

She acknowledged that it is uncertain “to what extent we can keep this [nuclear] agreement alive if a giant economic power doesn’t join in.”

The top diplomats of Iran, France, Britain and Germany are expected to meet early next week to discuss their next steps.

Le Maire proposed creating a European body that would have the same kind of powers that the US Department of Justice has to punish foreign companies for their trade practices.

As a result of the new US sanctions, companies worldwide must stop doing business with Iran or risk US fines or other punishment.

The sanctions not only bar US companies from doing business with Iran, but they also hurt foreign companies by prohibiting them from using US banks unless they cut links with Iran.

European governments tried for months to persuade Trump to stick with the deal, but failed and now fear it would raise the risk of conflict in the region.

Military tensions between Iran and Israel have already mounted and oil prices are rising on the uncertainty.

Aircraft makers Airbus SE and Boeing Co, oil companies and automakers could be among the companies hardest hit.

Le Maire said France is pushing for exemptions for its companies, but that he has “no illusions” about a generous US response.

Meanwhile, the US government tried to further pinch Iran’s finances by disrupting a currency exchange network allegedly used to transfer millions of dollars to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The US Department of the Treasury on Thursday said in a statement that it took joint action with the United Arab Emirates against nine Iranian individuals and entities involved in the network, and threatened sanctions against any other companies that help those nine.

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