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U.S. will not interfere with Europe-Iran trade, says Tillerson
The United States could restore sanctions on Iran if President Trump goes through with his threats to leave the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted Thursday that a U.S. reinstatement of sanctions will not harm European businesses who operate in Iran.
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Feb 17, 2018

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WASHINGTON D.C. — President Trump's decision to not certify Iran's compliance with the 2015 U.S.-Iran nuclear deal may lead to a revival of U.S. sanction on Iran, but European Union nations might remain free to keep doing business with Iran if they choose. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that European businesses operating in Iran will not suffer any harms even if the United States reinstates sanctions.

"The president's been pretty clear that it's not his intent to interfere with business deals that the Europeans may have under way with Iran," Tillerson said. "He's said it clearly: 'That's fine. You guys do what you want to do.'"

Under the 2015 nuclear accord, the United States would lift its longstanding trade embargo on Iran in exchange for Iran allowing inspectors to verify that it is not producing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency affirmed Iran's compliance the following year, and the U.S. started to allow some limited commerce with Iran, including exports of passenger aircraft to Iran, imports of Iranian rugs and some foods to U.S. buyers, and authorization for Iran to sell its oil on world markets.

Other restrictions on U.S. businesses stayed in place, and virtually no U.S. businesses opened physical offices in Iran. The European Union went much farther, however, and encouraged almost all kinds of European businesses to sell in Iran.

Trump refused to certify Iran's compliance last week, which gives Congress 60 days to decide to restore sanctions. European Union leaders said Thursday that they seek to protect European companies and investors who have commercial interests in Iran now.

European leaders are expected to uphold the deal even if the United States withdraws, however. And U.S. sanctions might hold no authority over European businesses.