May 23, 2018 / 6:22 AM / 5 months ago

U.S. Iran strategy reinforces conservatives, endangers region: France

PARIS (Reuters) - The U.S. decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and implement a tough strategy on the country will strengthen Tehran’s hardliners and endanger the region as a whole, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a meeting on the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, in Paris, France, May 18, 2018. Christophe Petit-Tesson/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

Jean-Yves Le Drian was speaking two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would impose “the strongest sanctions in history” if Iran did not curb its regional influence and limit its ballistic missile program.

“We disagree with the method because this collection of sanctions, which will be set up against Iran, will not enable dialogue and on the contrary it will reinforce the conservatives and weaken President (Hassan) Rouhani. This posture risks endangering the region more,” Le Drian told France Inter radio.

He said Paris shared Washington’s concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile “frenzy” and regional hegemonic ambitions, but that the 2015 nuclear deal was the best chance of stopping Tehran developing a nuclear bomb.

Deputy foreign ministers of the remaining parties to the accord - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - will meet their Iranian counterpart on Friday in Vienna.

The meeting will assess what can be done to keep the deal and circumvent extraterritorial American sanctions that are already impacting foreign business appetite for Iran.

European companies say they are worried about getting caught up in the new U.S. sanctions, given the extent of Washington’s global reach, and some have already started pulling out.

“We have another problem which is the security of our companies and the capacity to give Iran the economic benefits that it can expect in return for giving up on nuclear weapons,” Le Drian said.

“These (U.S.) sanctions are not acceptable. We can’t allow them to become legitimate.”

Reporting by John Irish, Editing by Geert De Clercq, William Maclean

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