The Denver Post - - BUSINESS -

France wasted no time in re­build­ing its eco­nomic ties with Iran since in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions were lifted as part of Tehran’s nu­clear deal with world pow­ers.

In early 2016 — just af­ter the sanc­tions be­gan to roll back — France made deals with Iran to sell Air­bus com­mer­cial jets, re­turn car­maker Peu­geot and have en­ergy gi­ant To­tal buy Ira­nian crude oil.

An­other big bet by France was made Mon­day as To­tal signed a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar deal to help de­velop part of the mas­sive South Pars gas field, one of the world’s most ex­ten­sive en­ergy re­serves. The pact with the Na­tional Ira­nian Oil Co. marks the first ma­jor Western in­vest­ment in Iran since the nu­clear deal was reached in 2015.

An even big­ger mes­sage sent by the deal is that France and the United States are blaz­ing dif­fer­ent paths when it comes to Iran’s vast oil and gas fields.

French lead­ers and busi­ness en­voys spent months ham­mer­ing out the To­tal deal. In Wash­ing­ton, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has not missed any op­por­tu­nity to crit­i­cize the nu­clear deal as part of his at­tacks on all things Obama.

It has left U.S. oil com­pa­nies wait­ing on the side­lines for clues on whether they could one day get of­fi­cial clear­ance to make a foray into the Ira­nian mar­ket. A push in Congress for new sanc­tions on Iran — in re­sponse to Tehran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests — sug­gests that it could be a long time be­fore U.S. oil com­pa­nies can look in Iran’s di­rec­tion.

“This is a ma­jor agree­ment for To­tal, which of­fi­cially marks our re­turn to Iran to open a new page in the his­tory of our part­ner­ship with the coun­try,” the com­pany’s chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Pa­trick Pouyanné, said in a state­ment.

Iran’s oil min­is­ter, Bi­jan Zan­ganeh, said the deal will bring “more than $5 bil­lion in for­eign in­vest­ments.”

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