TEHRAN: France sought to revive its relations with Iran on Wednesday, inviting President Hassan Rouhani to visit Paris in November, in a gesture that swiftly follows this month’s historic nuclear deal.
The offer came in a letter delivered by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was in Tehran on a short trip that has attracted a mixture of optimism and criticism.
Mr Fabius said the July 14 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers including France offered the chance for rapprochement after years of strain.
But some in Iranian media have since attacked the diplomat’s hawkish stance in the nuclear talks. In recent days he also came under fire over his role in a tainted blood scandal dating from the 1980s that killed hundreds of Iranians.
The first French foreign minister to visit Iran in 12 years, Mr Fabius told reporters it was an important trip that could offer a new beginning.
“We are two great, independent countries. It is true that in recent years, for reasons that everyone knows, the ties have cooled but now thanks to the nuclear deal, things will be able to change,” he said at the French embassy.
Around the time Mr Fabius landed in Tehran, however, a small but noisy group of protesters gathered at Mehrabad Airport to oppose the visit, citing the blood deaths that occurred when he was France’s prime minister.
“King of AIDS, you are not welcome,” one billboard read, while another stated: “We will neither forgive nor forget.”
The slogans related to the French National Blood Transfusion Centre, which decades ago exported products contaminated with the AIDS virus. Mr Fabius was acquitted in 1999 by French courts over the affair, which also claimed lives in France.
The French minister also held a short press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, where the invitation to Mr Rouhani from French President Francois Hollande was announced.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2015