The Latest: France vows to protect European business in Iran

The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Iran nuclear deal (all times local):

4 p.m.

An official says that France and the European Union will work with the Trump administration to ensure European business interests in Iran are protected despite the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

An adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron said the U.S. decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran means European companies could be affected.

The adviser, who isn’t authorized to be publicly named, said “we are going to do everything with the businesses involved to safeguard our interests. We will have discussions at the European level.”

He added that France wants to preserve the Iran nuclear deal as part of its effort to guarantee global security in the Middle East, and that Macron would speak with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later Wednesday. One of the main topics of Macron’s trip to Russia in May will be the Iran nuclear deal.

–By Samuel Petrequin in Paris.


3:25 p.m.

An influential German business association says Washington’s call for companies to stop dealing with Iran is contrary to international law.

The Federation of German Industries, or BDI, said Wednesday it rejects “the extraterritorial application of sanctions” and called upon the EU to find a solution to protect European companies from the “unlawful and unilateral” application of U.S. sanctions.

Many in Germany bristled at a tweet Tuesday from U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell after only hours on the job saying “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”

He later defended it as “the exact language sent out from the White House.”

BDI says German firms don’t want to jeopardize business with the U.S. so there’s an “urgent need to effectively protect our companies from the effect of U.S. sanctions.”


2:40 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister is vowing to work to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and prevent an “uncontrolled escalation” of tensions in the Middle East.

Heiko Maas said Wednesday that “the agreement is working.” He added that “it is not at all clear what, in the United States’ view, could take the place of the nuclear agreement to prevent Iran verifiably from producing nuclear weapons.”

Maas said it isn’t in Iran’s interests to jeopardize the opportunities created by the nuclear deal. He said “a cool head” will be needed in the coming days as the next steps are discussed.

He added: “We will also have to analyze what consequences the United States’ withdrawal will have for European companies and how we in Europe can react to them together.”


2:35 p.m.

A group representing German trade interests says the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal will hit Germany’s economy hard.

The head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry says the decision to lift sanctions on Iran in 2016 resulted in many new business relationships between the two countries.

Eric Schweitzer said Wednesday that the “unilateral actions by the U.S. government now subject this business to big reservations” because of the punitive sanctions German companies might face from the U.S.

Schweitzer cited a warning issued by the new U.S. ambassador in Berlin and urged Germany’s government and the European Union to protect German business interests.

Trade between Germany and Iran reached 3.4 billion euros ($4 billion) last year, according to BGA, another foreign trade association.


2:30 p.m.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says that instead of scuttling the nuclear deal with Iran, as the United States has done, others should consider expanding economic relations instead, to promote peace and good relations.

Michel told VRT network on Wednesday that at a European Union summit next week, the 28 leaders need to throw their full weight behind the agreement, “but perhaps also to expand the deal.”

Michel said that “together with our partners in the world we must see perhaps whether to develop an economic element.” He added that “we can promote stability in the region by reinforcing our economic exchanges.”

The 28 EU leaders will have a summit in Sofia on May 17 and the Iranian nuclear deal has been put on the agenda.


2:25 p.m.

China is expressing regret over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and says it remains committed to the landmark pact.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Wednesday that “ensuring the integrity and sanctity” of the agreement was important for upholding the international nonproliferation regime and promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.

“We express regret over this decision made by the United States,” Geng said.

China is strongly invested in the agreement, and it’s unclear what effect Trump’s widely-criticized decision to re-impose sanctions will have on its relationship with Tehran.

China was involved in negotiating the agreement as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and has long been a close Iranian economic partner, buying about 1/3 of Iran’s oil shipments

Geng said China would “carry on the normal and transparent pragmatic cooperation with Iran on the basis of not violating our international obligation.”


2 p.m.

Iran’s supreme leader has challenged President Donald Trump over America pulling out of nuclear deal, saying: “You cannot do a damn thing!”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments came Wednesday as he met with a group of school teachers in Tehran, a day after Trump announced he was renewing sanctions on Iran.

Khamenei described Trump’s speech Tuesday night as having “over 10 lies,” without elaborating. He also said Trump’s remarks threatened Iran’s people and its theocratic government.

Under Iran’s Islamic Republic, Khamenei has final say on all state matters.


1:15 p.m.

European plane-maker Airbus says it will abide by renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran but that it could take “some time” to determine the full impact of the American decision on the aviation industry’s plans to sell billions of dollars’ worth of planes to Iran.

Airbus and rival Boeing are among the biggest companies affected by Trump’s decision to pull out of a landmark 2015 accord on curbing Iran’s nuclear activities.

An Airbus spokesman said Wednesday that “we’re carefully analyzing the announcement and will be evaluating next steps consistent with our internal policies and in full compliance with sanctions and export control regulations.” He said he expected it to take “some time.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that licenses held by Airbus and Boeing to sell jetliners to Iran will be revoked, but that certain exemptions will be negotiated.


12:30 p.m.

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has welcomed President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was clear from the beginning that the Americans were “not trustworthy” and that the move would have no impact.

The semi-official Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari as predicting that the European Union, which opposed the pullout, would eventually join the U.S., meaning the “the fate of the deal is clear.”

He is quoted as saying: “We welcome Trump’s decision on pulling out of the deal. This is not a new event and has no effective role in any field.” He added that “it was clear that the Americans are not trustworthy.”

Trump on Tuesday announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the international deal and restore sanctions on Iran, leaving the future of the agreement in doubt.

The Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force dominated by hard-liners, which answers directly to Iran’s supreme leader.


12:10 p.m.

German multinational Siemens says it will abide by any sanctions on Iran but is waiting to see how the international community reacts to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal.

CFO Ralf Thomas told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that Siemens, which has multi-billion euro (dollar) contracts with Iran for rail, power plant and other projects, was currently assessing the possible impact.

He says “we will always comply and adhere to all relevant export control regulations,” but “we are waiting for guidance from the international community.”

Thomas says in the big picture, Siemens’ Iranian business was “immaterial to the company” but that “we take note that one of the most important industrial countries on the planet has reached a political decision.”


12:05 p.m.

France says the Iranian nuclear accord is “not dead” despite the U.S. withdrawal and that European countries will hold talks with Iran to find ways to keep it alive.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday on RTL radio that “the risks of confrontation are real” after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the landmark agreement.

Le Drian said “we are ready to work on a widened accord” that would address Trump’s concerns about the 2015 deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He said he and his British and German counterparts will meet Monday with Iranian representatives to discuss next steps.

Airbus, Renault and other French and European companies risk problems after resuming business with Iran following the 2015 deal, which lifted international sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities.

French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss Mideast tensions at a special security meeting Wednesday and is expected to talk with Iranian President Rouhani in the coming hours.


11:30 a.m.

The European Union’s envoy to China says the Iran nuclear deal will not “fall apart” despite the United States withdrawing from the landmark accord.

Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said Wednesday that the EU believes “this is an agreement which belongs to the international community.”

Speaking during a press briefing in Beijing, he said: “This is not an agreement that will fall apart if you just walk away.”

Negotiated by the Obama administration, the 2015 accord included EU members Germany, France and Britain, and had lifted most U.S. and international economic sanctions against Iran. In exchange, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program, making it impossible to produce a bomb and establishing rigorous inspections.

President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal on Tuesday and restored harsh sanctions against Iran.


10:40 a.m.

China’s special envoy for the Middle East is urging all parties to adhere to the Iran nuclear deal and solve the dispute through dialogue.

China’s Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday that Gong Xiaosheng spoke at a press conference in Iran after meeting with Iranian officials, saying the multilateral deal is “very serious and important.”

Gong says the deal helps maintain the international nuclear non-proliferation system and promotes peace and stability in the Middle East, and that the integrity of the agreement must be observed.

Gong says: “Having a deal is better than no deal. Dialogue is better than confrontation.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that the United States would withdraw from the international deal and restore sanctions on Iran, leaving the future of the agreement in doubt.

China was a co-signer of the agreement, along with Russia, Britain, France and Germany.


10:15 a.m.

A prominent Iranian lawmaker says parliament is preparing to increase spending on the country’s ballistic missile program.

The head of Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, made the comments Wednesday after President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the nuclear deal.

One of Trump’s criticisms of the deal has been the fact it does not address Iran’s missile program.

Boroujerdi said: “With America’s decision, Iran’s missile program will not change at all.”


9:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal is dominating newspaper front pages and discussions across Iran, with some saying the accord will go on “without the troublemaker.”

Iranian moderate newspapers on Wednesday sought to buoy embattled President Hassan Rouhani, with the daily newspaper Asr-e Eghtesad proclaiming: “Iran’s diplomacy has blunted Trump’s blade.”

The state-run IRNA news agency referred to Trump as “the troublemaker.” Meanwhile, the hardline daily Kayhan went with: “Trump tears apart the nuclear deal; It is time to set it afire!”

President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that Iran could restart enriching uranium “without any limitations” within weeks, after President Donald Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal, though the Iranian leader said world powers still in the accord could potentially save the pact.


9:45 a.m.

Iran’s parliament speaker is saying his country will evaluate the European Union’s ability to protect the nuclear deal.

In an opening speech Wednesday expressing pessimism about future of the deal, Ali Larijani said: “The period is only a window in which the EU can prove if it has enough weight for settling down international issues or not?”

He also said that Iran will examine diplomatic ways at first, but he also urged the country’s nuclear department to prepare for “resumption of all aspects of nuclear activities.”

Larijani added Iran is not after hasty “reaction and adventurism.”


9:35 a.m.

Iranian lawmakers have set a paper U.S. flag ablaze at parliament after President Donald Trump’s nuclear deal pullout, shouting, “Death to America!”

Lawmakers held the impromptu demonstration inside parliament on Wednesday, the day after Trump’s decision. They also burned a piece of paper representing the nuclear deal.

The chant “Death to America” long has been used in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. It also has been common to hear it within parliament.

However, Wednesday’s demonstration shows the public anger coursing through Iran after Trump’s decision.