Iran calls for EU aid as shipping giant withdraws, fearing U.S. sanctions

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France/LONDON – One of the world‘s biggest cargo shippers announced on Saturday it was pulling out of Iran for fear of becoming entangled in US sanctions, and President Hassan Rouhani demanded that European countries to do more to offset the US measures.

The announcement by France‘s CMA CGM that it was quitting Iran deals a blow to Tehran‘s efforts to persuade European countries to offer economic benefits to offset the new US sanctions.

Iran says it needs more help from Europe to keep alive an agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear program. US President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement in May and has announced new sanctions on Tehran. Washington has ordered all countries to stop buying Iranian oil by November and foreign firms to stop doing business there or face US blacklists.

European powers which still support the nuclear deal say they will do more to encourage their businesses to remain engaged with Iran. But the prospect of being banned in the United States appears to be enough to persuade European companies to keep out.

Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatory countries to the nuclear deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — offered a package of economic measures to Iran on Friday to compensate for US sanctions that begin taking effect in August, but Tehran said the package did not go far enough.

"European countries have the political will to maintain economic ties with Iran based on the JCPOA [the nuclear deal], but they need to take practical measures within the time limit," Rouhani said on Saturday on his official website.

CMA CGM, which according to the United Nations operates the world‘s third largest container shipping fleet with more than 11 percent of global capacity, said it would halt service for Iran as it did not want to fall foul of the rules given its large presence in the United States.