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The European Commission on Friday proposed to activate a dormant statute to shield European firms doing business with Iran from renewed USA sanctions.

The "blocking statute" is a 1996 regulation originally created to get around Washington's trade embargo on Cuba, which prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanction laws, and says no foreign court judgments based on these laws have any effect in the European Union.

The measures come days after EU-Iran talks over how to take the nuclear deal out of "intensive care", which were attended by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

To view the full article, register now. The measure potentially could put European companies in a bind, as they could be forced to choose between compliance with the EU measure and USA secondary sanctions against Iran.

UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson cast doubt on the EU's ability to prevent the re-imposition of United States sanctions that also seek to punish foreign companies for doing business with Iran.

The European Commission will also "continue and strengthen the ongoing sectoral cooperation with, and assistance to, Iran, including in the energy sector and with regard to small and medium-sized companies".

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We also made a decision to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies' investment in Iran.

The European Union and Iran have launched a vigorous campaign to safeguard the 2015 nuclear deal that the U.S. has recently ditched by trying to keep Iran's oil and investment flowing.

Maersk, the world's biggest shipping container firm, the French oil giant Total and German-based insurance firm Allianz have already announced plans to withdraw from operations in Iran, to avoid new USA sanctions.

"If they can not do that, we are ready to take our nuclear programme to a level stronger than before the JCPOA", Ali Akbar Salehi said.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump opted to withdraw the United States from a joint nuclear agreement with Iran, and chose to reinstate all sanctions that had previously been imposed on Iran, but were waived when the deal was signed in 2015. Trump vowed to reinstate the previous sanctions and introduce new restrictions should Tehran carry out its nuclear ambitions.

The second step will be to "remove obstacles for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to decide under the EU budget guarantee to finance activities outside the European Union, in Iran".