Pressure mounts on Iran as oil firms pull out

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Iran faced growing economic pressure yesterday after two Western oil firms halted business with it, and a Gulf Arab country seen as a trade lifeline for Tehran moved to freeze some Iranian-linked bank accounts.

France's Total joined an expanding list of companies that have stopped gasoline sales to Iran, and Spain's Repsol said it had pulled out of a contract to develop part of the country's huge South Pars gas field in the Gulf.

"Total has suspended its sales of gasoline to Iran," a company spokesman said in Paris. The decisions were announced four days after the US Congress approved a bill to penalise firms supplying petroleum to Iran, which is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter but lacks the refining capacity for its own fuel needs.

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