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Prime Minister Lionel Jospin defended a $2 billion deal the French oil giant Total signed over U.S. objections to develop a natural gas field in Iran -- and warned Washington not to retaliate.

A year-old U.S. law provides for sanctions against foreign companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran.

"American laws apply in the United States, not in France," Jospin said in a television interview Monday night.

"No one accepts the idea the Americans can make laws that apply on a global scale. If not, the planet would be a different place, and we would not be the old, independent nation that we are."

The deal signed Sunday risks aggravating the sometimes strained relations between allies France and the United States, especially if Washington were to seek sanctions against Total.

The State Department said Monday it will conduct an independent investigation into the agreement to develop the South Pars natural gas field before deciding if sanctions are warranted.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin declined to say what sanctions would be imposed if the investigation showed the companies are violating U.S. law.

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