Le Grand Satan? France under fire for tough line on Iran nuclear programme



France was at the centre of a diplomatic storm today after the French Foreign Minister was accused of sabotaging a deal with Iran which would end almost a decade-long standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme.

The most strident criticism came from Iran, where the hardline press condemned the “disgraceful behaviour” of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at negotiations in Geneva. There were suggestions in Iranian media that trade ties should be severed with France and that the country should replace America as the “Great Satan”.

But Mr Fabius was also criticised by diplomats within the six powers – known as the P5+1 – involved in the three-day negotiations with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, which wound up without agreement after midnight on Saturday. A new round of talks has been scheduled for 20 and 21 November

Foreign ministers from the UK, US, France, Russia and Germany, and a senior Chinese official, joined the negotiations on Saturday as an interim agreement appeared within reach. But hopes of a deal were dashed after Mr Fabius revealed that there remained differences, in particular over the freezing of the construction of a heavy water reactor at Arak.

It remained unclear today whether Mr Fabius had received clearance from his partners to speak publicly about the substance of the talks which had remained under tight wraps during the negotiations.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, mobilised today to prevent what he called a “bad agreement” after issuing a forceful pre-emptive complaint following talks in Jerusalem on Friday with US Secretary of State John Kerry, when the talks appeared to be making rapid progress.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, struck an optimistic note, saying that “a deal is on the table, and it can be done”.

The deal under discussion would address Iran’s demand for the easing of sanctions which have targeted its oil and banking sectors over its defiance of UN resolutions. In return the Iranian authorities would seek to address Western concerns by constraining its nuclear programme.  The P5+1 diplomats are working on an interim deal which would last for six months while a final agreement is worked out.

France wants work at Arak to be halted during the initial period, while others envisage that the plant to be part of the final pact.

The momentum towards a settlement received a crucial impetus following the election in June of Iran’s pro-reform President Hassan Rouhani, whose government has nevertheless continued to insist that Iran must retain the right to enrich uranium on its own soil. Iran says its nuclear programme is purely for civilian purposes.

Francois Heisbourg, a special adviser to the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, told The Independent that “the French are right to say that the fate of Arak has to be settled now.”  It has not  been the focus of diplomatic efforts until now because it has not been built. However the reactor, which is due to come online in the second half of next year, is now the focus of concern because plutonium from Arak would provide Iran with an alternative pathway towards building a bomb.

“It makes sense to ask for a freeze on the Arak construction now, in case there is no second bite of the apple,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament department at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, by email.

Mr Kerry, accused of giving away too much to Iran by critics in Congress, today defended the Obama administration’s strategy. “We are not blind, and I don’t think we are stupid,” he told Meet the Press on NBC.

Michael Adler, an Iran expert with the US think tank the Woodrow Wilson Center, told The Independent that a delay in talks might threaten an eventual agreement. “Now the question is whether the matter can be settled quickly,  or whether it will drag on, which is dangerous since hardliners on both sides could take steps which would sabotage an eventual agreement,” he said.

France has long taken a hard line regarding Iran. Mr Heisbourg rejected suggestions that the French government’s position stemmed from its lucrative business ties with Saudi Arabia, which has campaigned against Iran’s nuclear programme.

He argued that the Iranians could stop work at Arak “instantly”. “If they don’t want to, then it comes back to the question: what are they up to?”

ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game