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French foreign minister in Tehran for potentially tense talks

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is in Tehran for a two-day visit which is expected to be far from easy after a series of harsh statements made by French leaders about Iran’s missile program and its role in the Middle East.

According to Press TV, the top French diplomat was greeted by a group of protesters as his flight touched down at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport mid-night Sunday.

The protesters carried placards which read “Iran is not Libya,” in an apparent reference to France’s role in NATO’s bombing of the African country and the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.

Ahead of his visit, Le Drian said Iran should address “concerns” over its ballistic missile program or risk new sanctions.

“There are ballistic programs of missiles that can reach several thousand kilometers which are not compatible with UN Security Council resolutions and exceed the sole need of defending Iran’s borders,” he told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “If not tackled head-on, this country risks new sanctions.”

Le Drian is to hold meetings with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has said that it is expecting “frank” negotiations.

“We certainly have to have absolutely frank talks with the French foreign minister regarding the JCPOA,” Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

President Donald Trump has set a May 12 ultimatum for the European signatories to change the agreement. Otherwise, the US will withdraw from the deal.

In an interview published Monday, Zarif criticized the European Union for pursuing an extremist policy with Tehran in order to keep Washington in the agreement.

“In order to keep the United States in the Iran nuclear deal, European countries are suffering from extremism and this will ultimately undermine Europe’s policy,” he told Tehran-based Etemad daily.

Zarif stressed that Iran cannot be pushed around and warned that “any action to satisfy the party that has most violated the nuclear agreement is useless.”

“At present, two groups have violated the nuclear deal: the United States and Europe. The Americans because of Washington’s policy and the Europeans because of the US policy,” he said.

“The Europeans, because of the policy of the US could not meet their commitments, especially in the banking sector. Therefore these two groups are not in a position to set conditions for the country that has fully implemented its commitments,” the minister added.