The Hill-By Rebecca Shabad
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is urging President Obama to use the upcoming state visit with French President Francois Hollande to press him on business visits French companies recently made to Iran.
“Dear Mr. President, I write today to respectfully request that you discuss with French President François Hollande the troubling issue of the recent French trade delegation to Iran during his upcoming visit to the United States,” Shaheen wrote in a letter to Obama on Friday.
More than 100 French companies traveled to Iran’s capital of Tehran this week to do business. The delegations, Shaheen wrote, “Risk undermining the international sanctions regime at precisely the wrong time.”
Secretary of State John Kerry warned in an interview on CNN this week that French companies will be sanctioned if they try to do business with Iran.
“While the French may send some businesspeople over there, they're not able to contravene the sanctions,” he said. “They will be sanctioned if they do and they know it. And we've put them on notice.”
France is part of the P5+1 group that reached the interim nuclear agreement with Iran in November called the Joint Plan of Action. The six-month deal took effect late last month.
Hollande will visit the United States next Tuesday when Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host him for an official State visit.
“It is this strong partnership with the French that makes the recent news of the French trade delegation’s travel to Iran especially concerning,” Shaheen continued in her letter. “This three-day visit, which began on February 3 and was headed by the French employer’s federation Medef, misrepresents the scope of the sanctions relief provided under the [Joint Plan of Action], and sends the wrong message to Tehran and to the rest of the world that sanctions are abating.”
Shaheen discouraged the business trips in separate letters to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, and the ambassadors of Austria, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Shaheen is not one of the 16 Democratic senators who have endorsed the Iran sanctions bill sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).