August 7, 2018 / 10:44 AM / 13 days ago

CORRECTED-WRAPUP 2-New Trump sanctions on Iran take effect despite pleas from allies

 (Corrects day to Tuesday in first paragraph)
    * Trump: firms dealing with Iran not doing business with
U.S.
    * Tehran rejects talks as long as Washington rejects deal
    * European allies seek ways to mitigate impact

    By Babak Dehghanpisheh and Peter Graff
    BEIRUT/LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump
pledged on Tuesday that firms doing business with Tehran would
be barred from the United States as new U.S. sanctions against
Iran took effect in spite of pleas from Washington's allies.
    Iran dismissed a last-minute offer from the Trump
administration for talks, saying it could not negotiate while
Washington had reneged on a 2015 deal to lift sanctions in
return for curbs on Iran's nuclear programme.
    Trump decided this year to pull out of the agreement,
ignoring pleas from the other world powers that had co-sponsored
the deal, including Washington's main European allies Britain,
France and Germany, as well as Russia and China.
    The European countries have promised to try to mitigate the
impact of renewed U.S. sanctions to persuade Tehran to continue
to abide by the deal's terms. But that has proven difficult:
European companies have pulled out of Iran, arguing that they
cannot risk the prospect of damage to their U.S. business.
    "These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in
November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing
business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United
States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!" Trump
tweeted on Tuesday.
    White House national security adviser John Bolton said on
Monday Iran's only chance of escaping sanctions would be to take
up an offer to negotiate with Trump for a tougher deal.
    "They could take up the president's offer to negotiate with
them, to give up their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons
programs fully and really verifiably," Bolton told Fox News.
    "If the ayatollahs want to get out from under the squeeze, 
they should come and sit down. The pressure will not relent
while the negotiations go on," said Bolton, one of the
administration's main hawks on Iran.
    
    REMOVE THE KNIFE
    Washington accepts that Iran has complied with the terms of
the 2015 deal reached under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama,
but says the agreement is flawed because it is not strenuous
enough. Iran says it will continue to abide by the deal for now,
if other countries can help protect it from the economic impact
of Washington's decision to pull out.
    The sanctions that took effect on Tuesday target Iranian
purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial
software and its auto sector.
    In a speech hours before the sanctions were due to take
effect, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani rejected negotiations as
long as Washington was no longer complying with the deal.
    "If you stab someone with a knife and then you say you want
talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife,"
Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
    "We are always in favor of diplomacy and talks...But talks
need honesty," Rouhani said.
    He dismissed the proposal for talks as a stunt to sow chaos
in Iran and confuse American voters at home ahead of mid-term
elections in November. He said Washington was becoming isolated
internationally and would come to regret imposing sanctions
against the views of its allies and other world powers.
    The nuclear deal is closely associated in Iran with Rouhani,
a relative moderate who won two landslide elections on promises
to open up the economy to the outside world.
    European countries fear that by abandoning the deal,
Washington risks undermining Rouhani and strengthening the hand
of his more hardline opponents, who have long argued that the
West would never allow Iran to prosper.
    Britain, France, Germany and the EU as a bloc said in a
joint statement on Monday: "We deeply regret the reimposition of
sanctions by the U.S."
    Since the sanctions were initially lifted two years ago,
Iranian oil exports have risen. But most Iranians have yet to
see major economic improvement, and the prospect that Washington
would re-impose sanctions helped drive a collapse in the value
of Iran's currency this year, raising the cost of imports.
    There have been protests in Iran this year against rising
prices, and the security forces have responded firmly. Perhaps
seeking to head off more unrest, Iran announced steps this week
to make it easier to access foreign currency, and said it was
prosecuting an ex-central bank official for economic crimes.
    "            will definitely make daily life harder for
Iranians," said Saeed Leylaz, a Tehran-based economist and
political analyst. "But if the government has a serious plan
they can control the situation."
    Few American companies do much business in Iran, an enemy of
the United States since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, so the
impact of any sanctions depends on Washington's ability to block
European and Asian firms from doing business there.
    Among large European companies that have suspended ambitious
plans to invest in Iran in response to Trump's sanctions are
France's oil major Total           and its big carmakers PSA
          and Renault          .
    "We have ceased our already restricted activities in Iran in
accordance with the applicable sanctions", said German car and
truck manufacturer Daimler           .             

 (Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
  
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