U.S. pressure on Iran to continue despite lifting sanctions on China’s COSCO unit, official says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A decision by the United States to lift sanctions on one of two units of the Chinese tanker company COSCO was not a sign that the Trump administration was letting up on its “maximum pressure” against Iran, a senior U.S. official said on Saturday.

The lifting of sanctions on Friday by the U.S. Treasury Department partially reversed its punishment on the company for transporting Iranian oil after complained about the measure in trade talks with Washington.

The Treasury said it deleted COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Co from its sanctions list but continues to blacklist a second unit – COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman & Ship Management Co Ltd.

“This administrative de-listing should not be misinterpreted as a change in policy,” a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Our maximum pressure campaign continues as before; we will sanction any sanctionable activity.”

China is the world’s only major importer of Iranian oil despite sanctions President Donald Trump unilaterally reimposed on Tehran’s petroleum exports in 2018 after withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.

Trump hopes the sanctions will limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program and influence across the Middle East. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Idrees Ali; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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