The 15 European Union nations presented a united front Monday in opposing any U.S. interference with a $2 billion Franco-Iranian natural gas deal.
Sir Leon Brittan, the group’s trade chief, called on the United States to change legislation that would punish foreign companies doing business with Iran, Libya and Cuba.
“The Americans are entitled to disagree with us,” Brittan said. “What they are not entitled to do is to impose their will.”
U.S. law authorizes President Clinton to impose sanctions on any company that invests more than $40 million in Iran. He could hamper U.S. bank loans to the company and ban the sale of its products in the United States.
French oil giant Total signed a contract Sept. 28 with the Iranian government to develop an Iranian offshore natural gas field. Also in on the deal are Gazprom, a Russian petroleum company, and Petronas, a Malaysian company.
In Washington, the Clinton administration said it was sending legal experts to Malaysia, Russia and France to investigate whether the deal violates U.S. law.
The United States wants to make sure any sanctions it might impose against three foreign companies involved in the deal will stand up to a promised court challenge, State Department spokesman James Rubin said Monday. He said legal scrutiny of the contracts could take some time.
The EU has set an Oct. 15 deadline for reaching a compromise with Washington over sanctions. Without a deal, the EU is threatening to challenge the U.S. law at the World Trade Organization.