WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is set to announce this week it will renew sanctions waivers for five Iran nuclear programs that allow Russia, China and European countries to continue civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump, in an Oval Office meeting last week, sided with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who argued for renewing the waivers over objections by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, the Post said.
Mnuchin "argued to Trump that if the sanctions were not again waived as required by law by Aug. 1, the United States would have to sanction Russian, Chinese and European firms that are involved in projects inside Iran that were established as part of the 2015 nuclear deal," the Post said, citing six unnamed officials.
A State Department spokesman declined to comment to Reuters.
Pompeo in May extended five of seven sanctions waivers for 90 days. The waivers allow work at Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex and the Tehran Research Reactor.
Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and six world powers last year, arguing that he wanted a bigger deal that not only limited Iran's atomic work but also reined in its support for proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, and curbed its ballistic missile program. Trump tightened sanctions on Iran in May to try to choke off its oil exports.
The Post said the Treasury Department asked for more time to consider the effects of possible sanctions on Russian, Chinese and European companies, and quoted a senior administration official as saying the goal of ending the waivers remained.
"These waivers can be revoked at any time, as developments with Iran warrant. But because of the Treasury Department's legitimate concerns, we've decided to extend them for now," the official said, according to the Post.
Fears of a direct U.S.-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran's downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, and a plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler)