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Iran calls for EU help as shipping giant leaves

July 8, 2018

The French shipping giant CMA CGM has pulled out of doing business with Iran for fear of antagonizing the US. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called on European countries to do more to offset renewed US sanctions.

Containers are pictured on the "Antoine de Saint Exupery" cargo ship of French shipping company CMA CGM
Image: Reuters/J. Nazca

One of the world's largest cargo shipping companies has announced that it is pulling out of Iran for fear of becoming entangled in US sanctions.

The news comes amid demands from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that European countries do more to offset the US measures.

The announcement by the French company CMA CGM deals a blow to Tehran's efforts to persuade European countries to keep their companies operating in Iran despite the threat of new US sanctions.

Iran says it needs more help from Europe to keep alive the 2015 deal it worked out with world powers to curb its nuclear program. In May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement and announced new sanctions on Tehran. Washington has ordered all countries to stop buying Iranian oil by November. It has also ordered foreign firms to stop doing business there or face US blacklists.

European powers, however, still support the nuclear deal and say they will do more to encourage their businesses to remain engaged with Iran. But the prospect of being banned in the United States appears to have been enough to persuade some European companies to keep out.

"European countries have the political will to maintain economic ties with Iran based on the JCPOA [nuclear deal], but they need to take practical measures within the time limit," Rouhani said on Saturday on his official website.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani
Rouhani: EU must do more to maintain nuclear deal with IranImage: picture-alliance/AA/V. Baghdasaryan

Following the rules

According to the United Nations, CMA CGM operates the world's third-largest container shipping fleet, with more than 11 percent of global capacity. It said it would halt service for Iran because it did not want to fall foul of the rules, given its large presence in the United States.

"Due to the Trump administration, we have decided to end our service for Iran," said CMA CGM chief Rodolphe Saade. "Our Chinese competitors are hesitating a little, so maybe they have a different relationship with Trump, but we apply the rules."

The market leader in shipping, A.P. Moller-Maersk of Denmark, said in May that it was pulling out of Iran.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh has defined the tension between Tehran and Washington as a "trade war," though said it had not led to changes in Iranian oil production and exports.

Zanganeh also echoed Rouhani's remarks that the European package did not meet all of Iran's economic demands.

"I have not seen the package personally, but our colleagues in the Foreign Ministry who have seen it were not happy with its details," Zanganeh was quoted as saying by Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Some Iranian officials have threatened to block oil exports from the Gulf region in retaliation for US efforts to reduce Iranian oil sales to zero. Rouhani himself made a veiled threat along those lines in recent days, saying there could be no oil exports from the region if Iran was shut down.

av/cmk  (Reuters, AFP)

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