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In Iran nuclear talks, France occupies spotlight

WASHINGTON – France’s role in the unraveling of an international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program brought angry reactions Sunday from Tehran, glowing praise from Iran’s detractors and a whirl of speculation about France’s motives.

A marathon round of international talks in Geneva fell short of a widely anticipated deal early Sunday after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius objected, saying the terms of a preliminary accord were too easy on Tehran. “One wants a deal … but not a sucker’s deal,” Fabius said.

When the negotiations ground to a temporary halt, Iran was quick to point a finger.

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani told the National Assembly that Tehran would not be intimidated by any country’s “sanctions, threats, contempt and discrimination,” according to Iran’s student news service. “For us there are red lines that cannot be crossed.”

The semi-official Fars news agency criticized the “destructive roles of France and Israel” for the failure of negotiators to reach an interim deal and ran a caricature of France as a frog firing a gun. “By shooting he feels he is important,” the commentary said.

In contrast, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted that France “had the courage to prevent a bad nuclear agreement with Iran. Vive la France!”

The halt in talks set off a debate on whether France’s intervention was motivated by commercial or geopolitical interests in the Middle East.

Alireza Nader, a Middle East specialist at Rand Corp., said he believes multiple motives may be involved, including France’s desire to halt nuclear proliferation but also interests in selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations in the Persian Gulf that fear Iran’s regional power and would appreciate the French stand.

Paris may also believe that it has an interest in strengthening its position in the region, at a time when many there believe U.S. power is on the wane, Nader said.

Nader said one downside is that France’s initiative could weaken the efforts of the six-nation group that has been trying to work out a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue. The six are Britain, China, Germany and Russia, as well as the U.S. and France.

Some analysts speculated that some in Washington may be pleased if France’s push leads to a tougher deal at the next round of negotiations, which are to start Nov. 20 in Geneva.


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