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Europeans poised to roll out "vehicle" to dodge Iran sanctions

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President Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attend ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris. AP

Tehran, Iran -- Three European nations appeared poised Thursday to announce they have created a way for Iran to continue trade with them and avoid re-imposed U.S. sanctions, two Iranian officials said, setting up a potential collision with President Donald Trump's maximalist approach against Tehran.

France, Germany and the United Kingdom created a state company, known as a "special purpose vehicle," to allow Iran to continue to trade vital goods like medicine and food, according to German media reports. That allows companies to be insulated, in theory, from American sanctions by dealing with a third party.

EU foreign ministers were set to meet Thursday in Bucharest, Romania. There was no immediate announcement acknowledging the creation of the trade vehicle, though Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the EU wanted to continue to support the nuclear deal.

"The most important thing is to show our American colleagues that we are moving in the same direction on a whole series of issues such as ballistic missiles or Iran's regional influence, but that we do have a difference of opinion on the nuclear agreement," he said. "I hope we can also find a solution for this vehicle."

Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, told Iranian state television by telephone on Thursday that he expected the "special purpose vehicle" to be ready for business in one or two months.

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"The next issue is how European companies are willing to join SPV with this mechanism," he said.

Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, similarly tweeted he believed the start of the program was imminent.

Mr. Trump's decision to pull America out of the Iran nuclear deal in May pushed the three European nations to create the method. The 2015 atomic accord lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its enrichment of uranium.

In recent months, Iranian officials have increasingly threatened to resume higher enrichment, putting more pressure on Europeans to come up with a way to get around the sanctions.

How America will respond remains in question.

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