France says it may send envoy to Teheran, despite UN sanctions
Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy or another envoy might travel to Iran to encourage Teheran to be an aide to Middle East normalization.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
France might send an envoy to Iran for talks on the Middle East, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, adding that Teheran should be encouraged to promote stability in the region, even though it is under UN sanctions.
France is studying the possibility of sending Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy or another envoy to Iran, though officials have yet to make a decision, ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said.
"We are still reflecting on it, and we are taking into account what commitments could be obtained from Iran - tangible commitments, tangible results - during such a visit," Mattei said.
French officials recently have stressed the need for dialogue with Iran, often referring to it as a "great nation" and saying it has a role to play in resolving the Middle East's many crises. Mattei said that France must consult with its partners, especially nations in the region, before deciding whether to send an envoy.
Iran currently is under UN sanctions for its nuclear program, amid fears that it plans to develop nuclear weapons. Teheran insists it wants only to make electricity.
Last month, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to bar all countries from selling materials and technology to Iran that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also froze the assets of 10 Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
Mattei stressed that France fully supported the UN's efforts and that bilateral talks would not undercut those tactics. France is one of six nations that worked to try to curb Iran's nuclear program, along with Britain, Germany, Russia, China and the United States.
If France sends an envoy to Iran, it would provide a chance to restate French positions on various regional issues, including Israel's right to exist, Mattei said. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the annihilation of Israel.
Le Monde newspaper, which first reported the story Tuesday, said President Jacques Chirac had been pushing to send his foreign minister to Iran, but that officials in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States frowned on the plan, and that many French officials were reticent as well.
Chirac hoped for dialogue with Iran about the situation in Lebanon, Le Monde said. He is a strong supporter of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who faces persistent protests by the Hezbollah-led opposition seeking to topple his government. Iran backs Hezbollah militants based in Lebanon.
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