European Union shields businesses from fallout of Trump's nuclear sanctions on Iran

Europe to exempt its firms from US sanctions on Iran

EU moves to block US sanctions on Iran

Juncker said the commission will begin the process of activating a so-called blocking statute, which bans European Union companies from observing the sanctions and any court rulings that enforce US penalties.

European businesses will be sheltered from the fallout of Donald Trump's decision to pull the USA out of the Iran nuclear deal under a previously unused EU trade protection law.

Jean Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said on Thursday the commission has a "duty to protect European companies" from American sanctions.

But companies around the world which invested in Iran after sanctions were lifted are now faced with a hard choice as Washington has threatened to punish firms that violate US sanctions by dealing with Tehran.

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Other measures proposed by the Commission, the EU executive, include urging EU governments to make transfers to Iran's central bank and to start the legal process of allowing the European Investment Bank to lend to EU projects in Iran.

This mechanism, dating back to 1996 and never used, adopted at the time to circumvent the embargo on Cuba, allows European companies and courts not to submit to regulations relating to sanctions taken by third countries.

European Council President Donald Tusk said EU leaders had agreed to give the Commission the green light to act whenever European interests were affected.

The Commission said in a statement it had "launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of USA sanctions on Iran falling within its scope", referring to an original European Union regulation from 1996.

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Tehran has warned it is ready to resume no-holds-barred "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment unless Europe can provide solid guarantees to preserve Iran's economic benefits under the deal. The Commission itself will maintain its cooperation with Iran. According to European sources, this measure may become the EU's first step towards ditching dollar in trade with Iran.

And, in a bid to reassure the Iranian government of the EU's political commitment to saving the nuclear deal, Energy Commissioner Miguel Canete is visiting Tehran this weekend.

Last week, the United States sanctioned six people and three companies it said had ties to Iran's elite military force.

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