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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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32 dead, 1 missing in Papua attacks, Indonesian police say

AP Associated Press

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JAYAPURA, INDONESIA- Security forces tried to recover the bodies of 31 construction workers and a soldier who were killed in one of the worst separatist attacks in Indonesia’s restive province of Papua, officials said Tuesday.

Papua police spokesman Suryadi Diaz said 24 workers were killed on Sunday when gunmen stormed a government bridge construction project in a remote mountainous village in Nduga district.

Citing reports from several witnesses, Diaz said, eight other workers fled to the nearby house of a local parliament member, but an armed group came a day later and killed seven of them. However the eighth managed to escape and remains missing.

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“This is the worst attack launched by the armed criminal group recently amid intensified development by the government,” Diaz told The Associated Press.

Separately, Papua province military spokesman Lt. Col. Dax Sianturi said an armed group attacked a military post in Mbua village in the same district late Monday, killing a soldier and injuring another.

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