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Iran's Zarif to visit Macron in France

Zarif will meet the French president during his tour [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2019

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Iran's foreign minister will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and France's top diplomat on Friday.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is expected to visit Paris and meet with his counterpart and the French president on Friday, state news agency IRNA reported.

"We will visit Paris on Friday to meet Emmanuel Macron and France's foreign minister" Jean-Yves Le Drian, IRNA quoted Zarif as saying during a gathering of Iranians in Stockholm late on Monday.

Zarif is currently on a three-nation tour of Scandinavia and he will also visit China "next week", according to IRNA.

France is a partner to the 2015 nuclear deal and has led European efforts to salvage the landmark accord since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Responding to those sanctions - as well as perceived inaction by European partners to counter the measures - Iran announced in May it would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the deal.

Tehran also threatened to take further measures unless the remaining parties - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - help it circumvent US sanctions, especially to sell its oil.

Iran's top diplomat started his global tour with a visit to Kuwait on Saturday, followed by Finland and Sweden.

Norway and France are next on the agenda.

US tensions

"America's sanctions are not pressuring me," Zarif added, dismissing concerns that US sanctions targeting him since late July would hamper his globetrotting diplomacy.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have seen a steep rise since Trump withdrew the US from the accord between Iran and world powers in May 2018, reimposing biting sanctions.

Washington is seeking to assemble a coalition to secure maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz - key to the global oil trade - following a number of attacks on oil tankers blamed by Washington on Tehran. Iran strongly denies involvement.

Earlier this month, Zarif accused the United States of transforming the Gulf into a "tinderbox" with its arms sales to regional allies.

"The US (sold) $50 billion worth of weapons to the region last year. Some of the countries in the region with less than a third of our population spend $87 billion on military procurement," Zarif told Qatar's Al Jazeera broadcaster during a visit to the Gulf state.

Washington is pursuing a "maximum pressure" campaign designed to force Iran to limit its nuclear and military activities.

"If you are talking about threats coming from the region, the threats are coming from the US and its allies who are pouring weapons into the region, making it a tinderbox ready to blow up," Zarif said.

President Hassan Rouhani said earlier this month that Iran favours talks with Washington if sanctions against the Islamic Republic are lifted, despite Zarif turning down a meeting with Trump.

Rouhani said that "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace" and "war with Iran is the mother of all wars" as he defended a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran favours talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions," Rouhani said in remarks aired live on state television.

Twelve months on, Iran hit back at US sanctions by suspending some of its commitments under the deal.

At the height of the crisis, Trump said he called off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic's forces shot down a US drone.

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