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Washington tells EU firms: Quit Iran now

Multinational companies are coming under increasing pressure from the US to stop doing business with Iran because of its nuclear program, it was disclosed here Friday.

European operators are facing threats from Washington that they could jeopardize their US interests by continuing to deal with Tehran, with increasing evidence that European governments, mainly France, Germany and Britain, are supporting the US campaign, The Guardian newspaper said. It has emerged that “Siemens,” one of the world’s largest engineering groups and based in Germany, has pulled out of all new business dealings with Iran after pressure from the US and German governments. This follows the decision by Germany’s three biggest banks, Deutsche, Commerzbank, and Dresdner, to quit Iran after a warning from US Vice-President Dick Cheney that if firms remain in Tehran, they are going to have problems in doing business with the US, the paper added.

The British Foreign Office, while sympathizing with companies, has privately backed the US warnings in recent weeks, telling firms such as Shell and British Petroleum of the risks of continuing business with Iran.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged French energy firms Total and GDF not to pursue new business in Iran.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is joining him in pressing for new sanctions, probably at EU level.

The US is tightening its economic squeeze on Iran and last month unilaterally imposed a new round of sanctions. It regularly complains in private to the British and other European governments that American efforts are being undermined by European companies continuing to do business with Tehran. (