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France's Total Leaves Iran Amid Sanctions Threat From U.S.

French oil giant Total SA's company headquarters outside Paris (file photo)
French oil giant Total SA's company headquarters outside Paris (file photo)

Iran’s oil minister says the French oil-and-natural-gas company Total has "officially left" Iran amid threats by the United States to impose sanctions against companies that do business in the country.

Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh was quoted by state television on August 20 as saying Total had officially "left the contract to develop the South Pars Gas project."

Zangeneh said a "process" was under way to replace Total with another company.

Earlier reports had suggested that China National Petroleum Corp., a state-owned Chinese firm, was considering whether to take over Total’s stake in the development of the South Pars natural gas field.

Total became involved in the project after Tehran signed a nuclear accord with six world powers in 2015 that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program.

But the accord was abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump on grounds that it was "deeply flawed," and the United States has threatened to punish companies that continue to do business in Iran.

The United States also imposed fresh sanctions on Tehran in August, targeting Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals, its car industry, and purchases of U.S. currency.

Washington says it will reimpose sanctions on Iran's oil exports and banking sector on November 4.

Shortly before Tehran announced Total’s departure from the Iranian energy project, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi urged the European Union, Russia, and Chica to accelerate their efforts to salvage the nuclear deal.

Qasemi said on August 20 that Europeans and other signatories like China and Russia have been "trying to save the deal...but the process has been slow" and needs to accelerate.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani's government is facing growing discontent in Iran over the country's weakening currency, which has lost half of its value since April.

Several mass protests also have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over high prices and alleged corruption.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP