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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. to Lift Sanctions On Firms

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration will probably not impose sanctions on foreign companies that are investing in Iran, U.S. officials said.

Since last year, the administration has been reviewing whether a $2 billion deal struck by France's Total, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas to develop a major Iranian oil field violates the law, that allows for sanctions on companies investing more than $20 million a year in Iran's petroleum industry.

"There will probably be a decision saying this [$2 billion gas project in Iran involving France's Total and two other firms] is sanctionable but [which] will grant the companies specific waivers" from sanctions, an official said Thursday.

Officials stressed, however, that a formal decision had not yet been made by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"It's premature, and we have made no decision," Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat said through a spokesman when asked for comment.

The administration is still negotiating with the European Union over sanctions to achieve what it considers acceptable cooperation in halting terrorism and curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the goals of a 1996 law under which the sanctions could be imposed.

Testifying in Congress, Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk said Thursday a U.S. decision was "imminent." He said congressmen would be briefed during the next few days by Eizenstat, who is handling the issue for Albright.

Other officials said the decision was likely to be announced next week either during or after the U.S.-EU summit, which will be attended by Clinton and European leaders.

The law, called the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, is designed to punish the two countries for what the United States considers their unacceptable behavior. Europe strongly opposes it, arguing the United States has no right to punish foreign countries in this way.