Iran rebuffs France's calls to curb its missile program

Iran says France should pressure U.S. to meet its commitments under 2015 nuclear deal.

Elad Benari ,

Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran on Monday rebuffed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s calls to curb its missile program after a day of tense discussions in Tehran aimed at salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal, AFP reported.

Le Drian said there was “still a lot of work to do” on Iran’s missile program after meeting with top officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif countered that Europe needed to “play a more constructive role to preserve” the nuclear deal.

“And above all to put pressure on the United States to meet its commitments under the deal and not to allow it to present illogical and illegal demands,” Zarif added, according to AFP.

The 2015 deal lifted economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. It was signed by the United States, China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union.

U.S. President Donald Trump, however, is against the deal signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and has been one of its most vocal critics.

While Trump recently decided to extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions that were imposed on Iran, he said it would be the last time he will do so and ordered European allies and Congress to work with him to fix “the disastrous flaws” in the 2015 deal or Washington would withdraw.

According to a recent report by Reuters, the United States has sketched out a path under which three key European allies would simply commit to try to improve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal over time in return for Trump keeping the pact alive by renewing U.S. sanctions relief in May.

Rouhani issued a statement after meeting Le Drian on Monday, saying, “Preserving the nuclear accord will prove to the world that negotiation and diplomacy are the best option for solving problems, while its collapse will signify that political negotiations are a waste of time.”

Le Drian has insisted he is not “an emissary of Trump”, but he has taken a firm line on Iran’s missile program, which has been a concern for the West.

“There are programs for missiles with ranges of several thousand kilometers which are not in line with UN Security Council resolutions and go beyond what is needed to secure Iran’s borders,” Le Drian was quoted as having told Le Journal du Dimanche on the eve of his visit.

France has ballistic missiles with ranges of more than 6,000 kilometers, which can be launched from submarines, but Le Drian said Iran was risking fresh sanctions if it did not curb its missile program, which is currently limited to 2,000 kilometers.

Le Drian said several weeks ago that Iran was not respecting part of a UN resolution that calls on it to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.

French President Emmanuel Macron has in the past said Iran's ballistic missile program was "very worrying". While he did not rule out new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program, he opined that such measures should be included in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which should not be canceled.