Iran and France cancel diplomatic lunch over wine

lunch between the French and Iranian presidents in Paris has been scrapped after the hosts refused to take wine off the menu.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had been due to eat lunch with French President Francois Hollande in an upmarket restaurant as part of Mr Rohani’s tour of Europe – but negotiations broke down after the Iranians requested a halal, alcohol-free meal.

French officials insisted on serving traditional local food and wine and said making a meal “Iran friendly” went against their Republican values.

The Elysee Palace suggested the heads of state share breakfast instead but this was rejected as “too cheap”.

A source told French radio station RTL: “The leaders have missed out on a great opportunity to meet in the relaxed environment of a meal.”

Mr Rouhani is currently visiting several European countries to sign business deals worth billions of pounds as Iran comes back in from the diplomatic cold after years of economic sanctions.

His visit to Italy went much more smoothly with officials keeping alcohol off the menu at state dinners and even covering up its ancient nude statues in Rome as they signed £12bn worth of business deals.

Iranian officials did not request the statues be covered up but were said to appreciate the gesture.

But some Italians thought it was a sign of “cultural suicide”:

Meanwhile, French protesters have demanded Mr Hollande challenge Mr Rouhani over human rights abuses in Iran – where people are jailed, executed and flogged for speaking against the regime or being gay and women are treated as second class citizens.

(The Independent)

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