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Russia, China tighten ties with Iran

Agency Press France

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ASTANA — Russia and China moved on Thursday to extend their economic influence in Iran, while Europeans are finding it harder to ignore efforts by Washington to isolate Tehran economically.

A Russian-led trade bloc, in one of the most concrete moves yet against renewed US efforts to choke off Iran economically,   signed an interim trade deal with Iran and signalled plans to negotiate a free trade zone.

Meanwhile, Iran’s oil minister said that Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC was ready to replace Total on a major gas field project in Iran if the French energy giant pulls out.

The fate of Total’s participation in the gas project demonstrates the difficulty the European Union faces in resisting Washington’s move as European firms stand to lose much more from busting US sanctions.

Earlier this month US President Donald Trump’s controversially pulled Washington out of an international deal with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear programme in return for easing economic sanctions.

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China, Russia and EU members Britain, France and Germany were also signatories of the 2015 pact, opposed Washington’s abandonment of the deal which Iran had respected.

But companies around the world now face a difficult choice as Washington has previously slapped huge fines on firms which bust US sanctions.

This week the EU launched work on a plan to keep the nuclear deal alive and French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that one reason is “so that our businesses can remain” in Iran.

However Total has indicated it will go forward with the investment only if it wins an exemption from Washington on the sanctions.

Other European firms are likely to make a similar calculation that the US market is worth much more to them than Iran.

Danish shipping giant Maersk Tankers said Thursday it would cease its activities in Iran, while German insurer Allianz has also announced it plans to wind down its business deals there.

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Magnitude 8.2 quake rattles Fiji

Thompson Reuters

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A massive quake of magnitude 8.2 struck in the Pacific Ocean close to Fiji and Tonga on Sunday but it was so deep that it was not expected to cause any damage, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The US Tsunami Warning Center also said the quake was too deep to cause a tsunami.

The quake was 347.7 miles (560 km) below the Earth which would have dampened the shaking at the surface.

“I would not expect any damage. People will feel it but it’s so deep that I would not expect any damage,” USGS geophysicist Jana Pursley said by telephone.

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The quake was initially reported as a magnitude 8.0 and then upgraded to 8.2, a magnitude that could cause tremendous damage had it not been so deep.

The epicenter was located 167 miles (270 km) east of Levuka in Fiji and 275 miles (443 km) west of Neiafu in Tonga.

The area is located on the earthquake-prone Ring of Fire.

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