French President Francois Hollande defended his Iran trade policy as President Obama pledged to hammer sanctions violators, the New York Times reports.
The leaders spoke together days after dozens of high-level French entrepreneurs visited Tehran in an effort to capitalize on an interim nuclear accord with Middle Eastern nation. The six-month agreement, which took effect in January, grants limited sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for temporary restrictions on the country's nuclear activities.
"Businesses may be exploring, are there some possibilities to get in sooner rather than later if and when there is an actual agreement to be had," Obama told reporters during a joint appearance with Hollande at the White House. "But I can tell you that they do so at their own peril right now because we will come down on them like a ton of bricks."
The half-year, multilateral agreement is intended to pave the way for a longer-term deal to address fears in Washington, Paris and elsewhere that Iran's nuclear program is geared toward development of a nuclear-arms capability. France, the United States, and four other nations negotiated the pact with the Persian Gulf power, which denies harboring any military ambitions for its atomic activities.
Speaking at the press conference, Hollande said he had urged participants in last week's trip to refrain from entering into business deals with Iran prior to the enactment of sanctions relief. He added, though, that the French government ultimately cannot restrict the private actions of businesses.
"The president of the republic is not the president of the employers’ union in France," he said.
Obama said he and Hollande both saw a "need to continue enforcing existing sanctions even as we believe that new sanctions during these negotiations would endanger the possibility of a diplomatic solution," Reuters reported.