Iran sees foreign firms returning if U.S. lifts sanctions

The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 4, 2019. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iran said on Tuesday that it expects foreign companies to return to the country if the U.S. sanctions are lifted under President-elect Joe Biden.

Major companies left Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 abandoned Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

The United States has since blacklisted dozens of foreign companies accused of cooperating with Iran.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a news conference that some firms had already made initial contacts to return to Iran, according to Reuters.

“Recently, contacts about opening offices and the presence of foreign companies in Iran have increased,” Rabiei told the news conference that was streamed live on a government website.

The Iranian official further said companies which did not leave Iran despite sanctions could be given more opportunities in the future.

“Some are considering reopening offices, but some companies… never closed down completely. These companies will definitely have more opportunities to operate,” he added.

“… Certainly, with the… lifting of the oppressive sanctions and the absence of Trump, the presence of foreign companies and a willingness to invest in Iran will increase.”

Biden, who takes office on January 20, has said he would rejoin the accord if Iran first assumed strict compliance, and would work allies “to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities”.

The accord, which world powers reached with Iran, sought to limit Iran’s nuclear programme to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons in return for the easing of economic sanctions.

The agreement did not restrict Iran’s ballistic missile programme nor its support for militia in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, which the United States sees as destabilizing to the Middle East.

European powers party to the agreement, along with Russia and China, have been trying to hold the deal together despite U.S. pressure for sweeping sanctions against Iran over breaches it declared in response to Washington’s pullout.

Iran denies that its atomic programme is aimed at developing weapons.

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