US warns France against business with Iran



The United States has warned France against doing business with Iran after a large trade delegation representing more than 100 French companies travelled to Tehran this week.

US officials are reportedly furious over the three-day visit by representatives of private firms.

French media reported that the US secretary of state, John Kerry, had called on the French foreign secretary, Laurent Fabius, to declare the visit was “not helpful” in backing up America’s preferred message to Tehran: that while sanctions have been eased, they have not been dropped, and “it is not business as usual.”

America has also warned France it will seek fines against any country – ally or not – that breaks the US and EU sanctions.

The 116-strong French business delegation represented many major French international companies, including Total, Peugeot, Citroën, Lafarge, GDF Suez and Alstom. There was even a representative from the football club AJ Auxerre, offering French savoir-faire over the training of players.

Thierry Courtaigne, vice-president of the French employers’ organisation Medef, said the delegation, which arrived in Tehran on Monday, wanted to assess the commercial opportunities there.

The French finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, said at the weekend that France would have “significant commercial opportunities” in Iran if sanctions were lifted.

Moscovici said the visit was intended to “convey the message that, if the situation improves, there will be significant commercial opportunities for France in Iran”.

Iranian leaders gave the French delegation a warm welcome, promising new measures to encourage foreign investment, particularly in oil and gas.

Renault said last week it had resumed exports of spare parts to Iran and that it was hoping production of the Tondar, an Iranian model of the company’s cheap Logan model, would increase slowly through the first six months of 2014.

Medef has defended the visit, saying the Austrians, Germans, Portuguese, Italians, Chinese and even the Americans have been on the business trail to Iran before than.

Last month, the US Treasury received $152m (£93m) from Luxembourg after the financial house Clearstream Banking was found to have illegally helped Iran’s central bank to access the US finance system in 2007 and 2008 in violation of US sanctions.


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