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French FM to visit Iran on March 5

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Iran in March, according to reports in Le Figaro. (REUTERS)
PARIS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Iran on March 5 after canceling a January trip following violent anti-regime protests, French daily Le Figaro quoted him Sunday as saying.
“We have embarked upon a dialogue with Iran on the issue of ballistics and regional questions,” Le Figaro quoted Le Drian as saying in an interview to appear Monday.
He told the paper that Paris “wishes to bring up (Tehran’s) destabilising military influence in the Middle East, its financial support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah and for the Houthi (rebels) in Yemen.”
“That is why ... I shall go to Iran on March 5,” said Le Drian, who will hold talks with counterpart Javad Zarif.
Le Drian announced the rescheduled talks after French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concern on January 2 over countrywide demonstrations in Iran and postponed a visit originally scheduled for January 5 and 6.
Violent unrest fueled by economic grievances erupted in dozens of Iranian cities between December 28 and January 1, leaving 25 people dead according to an official tally and thousands more arrested.
Adding urgency to Le Drian’s visit is a four-month US ultimatum to remedy a 2015 landmark nuclear deal which curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for the relaxing of punishing sanctions.
US President Donald Trump has lambasted the deal and last October refused to certify Iran was in compliance although he stopped short of withdrawing from it.
The European Union has defended the accord, warning that abandoning it would be a mistake after it was thrashed out over 12 years between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia.
But the EU retains deep concerns over Iran’s continuing ballistic missile program and its meddling in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria.
“If Iran wants to return to the family of nations it must cooperate on these questions or else it will always rightly be suspected of wanting to develop nuclear weapons,” Le Drian told Le Figaro.