UK, French and German companies begin pullout under US pressure
Friday November 9, 2007
Multinational companies are coming under increasing pressure from the US to stop doing business with Iran because of its nuclear programme. European operators are facing threats from Washington that they could jeopardise 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.
It emerged last night 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 doing business in the US.
The Foreign Office, while sympathising with City firms, has privately backed the US warnings in recent weeks, telling companies such as Shell and BP of the risks of continuing business with Iran. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has urged French energy firms Total and GDF not to pursue new business in Iran. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, 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. If economic sanctions fail to have an impact by next year, pressure will mount from Mr Cheney to launch air strikes against Iran.
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