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Poland Says EU Needs More "Empathy" Towards U.S. Over Iran Deal

Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz speaks during a Reuters interview at his office in Warsaw, Poland May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz speaks during a Reuters interview at his office in Warsaw, Poland May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
WARSAW, May 26 (Reuters)

The EU should pay more heed to U.S. security concerns linked to Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as the bloc decides how to address American sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Poland's chief diplomat said.

Since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord this month, European states have been scrambling to ensure Iran gets enough economic benefits to persuade it to stay in the deal and keep limits on its nuclear activities.

Tehran is pressuring Europe to come up with a package of economic measures to offset the U.S. pullout by May 31, saying it was "weeks" from deciding whether to quit the pact. Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia remain in it.

Earlier this month, the European Commission, the EU executive, proposed a series of measures which include banning EU-based firms from complying with the revived U.S. sanctions.

Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Warsaw -- a staunch ally of Washington -- had not decided yet whether to back the ban, potentially complicating a decision that needs unanimous backing from the EU's 28 members.

"We need to think, there is still time," Czaputowicz told Reuters. "This doesn't mean we don't feel part of the EU community in these discussions ... We will see what other EU members think."

Referring to European companies doing business in Iran since the nuclear deal was put in place, Czaputowicz said Poland felt "economic considerations appeared to take precedence" in EU talks.

"During discussions (within the EU), we will emphasize the need to consider the motives of the United States and a greater empathy towards them."

Warsaw has been at loggerheads with Brussels since the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) came into power in 2015 over issues ranging from the rule of law, energy policy and logging in an ancient forest.

Warsaw is keen for security assurances from the United States as a deterrence policy against Russia.

Czaputowicz said EU member states should weigh broader security issues during discussions about policy on Iran such as Russia's increased assertiveness in eastern Europe.

"It doesn't seem there is a direct link, but ... this is another issue we need to resolve."

He cautioned that Washington could at some point impose economic sanctions against European companies participating in the subsea Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

"This would become another issue for the European Union to find a position on."

EU foreign ministers will discuss policy on Iran at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Trump has complained that the Iran accord did not address Iran's ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Pawel Sobczak Editing by Helen Popper)