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France seeks $15b letter of credit for Iran to keep nuclear deal alive

France has reportedly offered to extend a $15 billion letter of credit to Iran in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

According to The New York Times, which cited a US official and Iranian reports, the proposed sum was aimed at salvaging the accord after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact last year and reimposed biting sanctions on Iran, including on its oil sector.

The $15 billion package would make up for about half of Iran’s annual oil sales, the report said, and ease some of the economic pressure on it.

On Sunday, a conservative Iranian lawmaker said French President Emmanuel Macron had proposed a $15 billion line of credit on condition Iran returns to the fold.

“Macron has proposed Iran stop its third step for now in exchange for this sum, and maybe retreat from its first and second steps to the initial situation,” said Ali Motahari, quoted late Sunday by Tasnim news agency.

He was referring to Iran’s violations of the nuclear deal in recent months. It has been threatening to take a third step in reducing its commitments to the deal, reportedly on Friday, after already increasing its uranium enrichment and stockpile.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has had a series of phone calls with Macron in recent weeks aimed at retaining the nuclear deal.

The French leader has been trying to convince the United States to offer Iran some sort of relief from sanctions.

“In the past few weeks, there have been serious negotiations” between Rouhani and Macron, as well as talks with other European nations, said Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

“Fortunately, in many areas, our views have come closer together,” the government spokesman told a news conference.

A French foreign ministry spokeswoman indicated Monday that, underpinning Macron’s efforts to make progress on the issue, including at last week’s G7 summit in France, “discussions are continuing with Iran on reaching a deescalation of tensions.

“A meeting is taking place to this end in Paris today between French and Iranian experts,” she added without giving further details.

The Iranian delegation was headed by deputy foreign minister and top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi.

Also Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov joined visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in welcoming French efforts to save the Iran nuclear deal while criticizing Washington’s stance.

“We are hoping that this useful initiative of the French president will bear fruit,” Lavrov told reporters.


Header image: France’s President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Ludovic Marin)