France to do utmost to protect business interests in Iran

PARIS (Reuters) - France and its European allies will work hard to safeguard the interests of their businesses in Iran, a source at the office of French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday, after the United States said it was reimposing strict sanctions on Tehran.

FILE PHOTO: A young boy stands behind an Iranian flag at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport, Iran, May, 5, 2010. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday pulled the United States out of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord, thrashed out with five other major powers and Iran, that lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he would meet French businesses involved in the region as Peugeot maker PSA PEUP.SA urged the European Union to adopt a common position and planemaker Airbus AIR.PA said it was keeping a close eye on the situation.

“We will obviously do everything, in conjunction with our businesses, to protect their interests,” the source said.

French exports to Iran doubled in 2017 to 1.5 billion euros ($1.78 billion), driven by the export of jets and aircraft parts, as well as automobile parts, according to customs data. Total trade between France and Iran hit a nine-year high last year of 3.8 billion euros.

The United States will give a six-month wind down for energy-related sanctions, including banking and shipping of energy products, and a 90-day wind down for everything else including passenger aircraft, a U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday.

A second State Department official said the United States would be encouraging foreign firms to move out of Iran.

Asked if it would be possible to trade with Iran in euros rather than dollars to skirt the sanctions, the Elysee official said: “That’s part of the discussion to be had but it’s not necessarily that simple.”

“We’re going to speak with our companies, our European partners,” the French official said. “We’ll deal with this at the European Union level with the United States.”

The official said discussions with U.S. authorities would include the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is tasked with overseeing U.S. economic sanctions.

Licenses for Boeing Co BA.N and Airbus AIR.PA to sell passenger jets to Iran will be revoked, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday.

Reporting by Marine Pennetier and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Brian Love and Jon Boyle