Obama warns firms rushing for business with Iran
President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that foreign firms rushing to do business with Iran are doing so at their own risk, noting that if they violate sanctions against Tehran, the U.S. will come down on them “like a ton of bricks.”
Obama made his remarks during a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande, whose country recently sent a large delegation of business leaders to Iran to explore opportunities there after the lifting of economic sanctions.
Secretary of State John Kerry had called the trip of more than 100 French executives to Iran “not helpful.”
The Obama administration has objected to the interest French businesses have shown in Iran since the sanctions were eased.
The United States and France are among the countries who signed an interim nuclear agreement that halts progress on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing international sanctions. Talks on a final deal begin next week in Vienna.
“Businesses may be exploring -- are there some possibilities to get in sooner rather than later if and when there is an actual agreement to be had?” Obama said.
“But I can tell you that they do so at their own peril right now. Because we will come down on them like a ton of bricks.”
Hollande, meanwhile, said that he did not control French corporations but had made clear sanctions on Iran would not be dismantled until a final deal on Iran's nuclear program had been reached.
“Sanctions will only be lifted if and when there is definite agreement,” Hollande said.
“During this period of the interim agreement, they remain in force.”
The 116-strong French delegation, with representatives from major companies like Total, Lafarge and Peugeot, was the largest of its kind from Europe since a landmark nuclear deal reached with the major powers in November gave Iran limited relief from crippling US and EU sanctions.