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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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Russian rocket fails in the mid air, crew lands safely

Thompson Reuters

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COSMODROME—Booster rocket carrying a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and US astronaut on board headed for the International Space Station failed in mid-air on Thursday, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing.

U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely without any harm.

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Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, quoted by Interfax, said the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.

The rocket was launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. A Reuters reporter who observed the launch from around 1 km away said that it had gone smoothly in its initial stage.

“Search and rescue teams are in the air and heading towards the expected touchdown location for the Soyuz spacecraft returning to Earth carrying two crew members,” NASA said in a statement.

 

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