US suggests wiggle room for some countries on Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON — Some countries continuing to import Iranian oil could avoid sanctions after restrictions are re-imposed in November following the American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the State Department said Monday.

The U.S. is "not looking to grant licenses or waivers," said director for policy planning Brian Hook, but "we are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis."

Hook said the U.S. sanctions on Iranian trade in automobiles, gold and other key metals will be re-imposed on Aug. 6 while sanctions targeting energy and banking will be reinforced Nov. 4.

The U.S. began to dismantle sanction relief for Iran after pulling out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran in May. It has faced significant push back from key European allies over the planned imposition of secondary sanctions that target countries continuing to do business with Iran.

In comments aired Sunday by Fox News, President Donald Trump said that European allies will face sanctions if they continue to trade with Iran.

Hook said Monday so far more than 50 international firms have announced their intent to leave the Iranian market. He did not specify which firms.

"We have been clear with countries and companies around the world that we are bringing severe economic pressure on Iran until the regime changes its destabilizing policies," Hook told reporters.

Iranian oil exports — the world's sixth largest — have been of particular concern to global market stability. The White House says Saudi Arabia could raise oil production to make up for any shortfall.

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