February 12, 2018 / 8:54 AM / 6 months ago

Head of France's Total urged Trump to stick with Iran nuclear deal: FT

PARIS (Reuters) - The head of French oil major Total recently urged U.S. President Donald Trump to stick with the nuclear deal with Iran, where it has investments, according to an interview with the Financial Times.

FILE PHOTO - Patrick Pouyanne, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Total, attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Total’s CEO Patrick Pouyanne said he had raised the topic of Iran with Trump at a dinner in Davos in January, and asked the president to keep faith with the nuclear deal, arguing that oil and gas investment would help the cause of reformers in Tehran.

“I made the argument, but the question is how much time do we give to the reformists? Do we give them enough time to . . . help them to go towards more democracy?” Pouyanne was quoted as saying.

“I think Donald Trump listened; it does not mean that he agrees.”

Trump has been pushing for changes to a 2015 nuclear agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program that cleared the way for sanctions to be lifted on the Islamic Republic.

In January, Trump gave European allies an ultimatum to come up with a tougher approach on Tehran or see U.S. sanctions reimposed.

Total signed a deal with Tehran last July to develop phase 11 of Iran’s South Pars field with an initial investment of $1 billion, in the first major western energy contract in the country since sanctions were lifted.

Pouyanne said in the interview that Total was fully committed to the South Pars project but had several ways to exit if sanctions were reimposed.

“If the framework, the rules of the game, change, of course we will have to re-evaluate,” Pouyanne said.

The Total CEO said that selling its 50.01 percent stake to one of its partners in the project, China’s state-owned CNPC, was a possibility to exit the investment, while another option would be to stop the project altogether, according to the FT.

Total reported higher profits last week, and announced plans for a $5 billion share buyback and a dividend increase.

Reporting by Sarah WhiteEditing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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