TOTAL CEO says it is 'impossible' for big energy firms to work in Iran

TEHRAN, Jun. 22 (MNA) – French energy giant Total has yet to permanently pull out of Iran following the renewal of US sanctions, but CEO Patrick Pouyanne sounded a pessimistic note about his company's prospects in the country.

Total positioned itself to develop a portion of the world's largest natural gas field after the 2015 Iran nuclear deal lifted punishing sanctions on the Iranian economy. However, the company is now preparing to abandon the Persian Gulf project unless the US government issues the company a sanctions waiver.

That would protect Total from so-called secondary sanctions, which the United States can use to punish foreign companies that engage in prohibited activity with Iran. Washington gave firms 90 to 180 days to wind down their business in the country after President Donald Trumpwithdrew the United States from the nuclear deal last month.

Pouyanne told CNBC at an OPEC seminar in Vienna that his position probably does not sit well with Europe's leaders. The European Union has attempted to salvage the nuclear deal by passing measures aimed at protecting the bloc's firms that have business dealings in Iran.

Secondary sanctions are particularly perilous for multinationals like Total. Engaging in sanctioned activity with Iran could prompt the American government to cut Total off from the massive U.S. financial system and force the firm to wind down its operations in the States.

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