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European Leaders To Discuss Ways To Shield Firms From U.S. Sanctions On Iran

BELGIUM -- European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (R) meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif prior to a meeting of the E-3 and Iran at the Europa building in Brussels, May 15, 2018

European Union leaders at a summit in Sofia on May 16 are expected to discuss measures that the bloc might take to shield European companies from renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on May 15 that European commissioners will first discuss whether the EU's 1990s-era sanctions-blocking measures can be used to protect European business interests in Iran before leaders at the summit take up the matter.

"We are working on finding a practical solution," she told a news conference in Brussels. "We are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive" now that the United States has walked away from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

Mogherini After Brussels Meeting With Iran
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"I cannot talk about legal or economic guarantees but I can talk about serious, determined, immediate work from the European side," Mogherini said.

Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was not optimistic about the chances of avoiding U.S. sanctions on Iran that could be used to penalize European companies that continue to business with Tehran.

The U.S. Treasury has put European businesses on notice that they have 90 days to wrap up most business with Iran before the renewed U.S. sanctions take effect, and U.S. leaders have been warning European companies to heed the sanctions.

"We have to be realistic about the electrified rail, the live wire of American extraterritoriality and how [it] can serve as a deterrent to business," Johnson told reporters in Brussels.

EU President Donald Tusk said in a letter to EU leaders on May 15 that the summit would "reflect on recent global developments, in particular following President [Donald] Trump's announcement on Iran and trade."

"I would like our debate to reconfirm without any doubt that as long as Iran respects the provisions of the deal, the EU will also respect it," Tusk said.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters