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As Rouhani plans Europe trip, France draws red line on red wine

State dinner scrapped in row over alcoholic beverages at meal; Iran president will be first Islamic Republic leader to travel to Europe in a decade

French President Francois Hollande drinks a glass of cider during a visit to Le Mont-Saint-Michel, on October 31, 2015. (AFP/Pool/Stephane Mahe)
French President Francois Hollande drinks a glass of cider during a visit to Le Mont-Saint-Michel, on October 31, 2015. (AFP/Pool/Stephane Mahe)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will be making state visits to Italy and France next week, becoming the first Iranian president to travel to Europe in a decade, the state news agency IRNA reported Monday.

The tour, which follows the July 14 nuclear accord between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers, including France, will see Rouhani meet with Italian officials and with the pope during his visit, which begins Saturday. He will then make his way to France to greet President Francois Hollande and other officials on November 16-17.

According to French media, a state dinner between Rouhani and Hollande to wrap up the visit was canceled following disagreement about the presence of alcohol during the planned meal. The French are notorious for consuming alcohol, generally wine, with their evening meals.

Iranian representatives asked for a halal menu, with food and drink according to Muslim dietary laws, which forbid alcohol, but were rebuffed by the French, who did not want to have to forgo their “traditions,” according to French radio outlet RTL.

A breakfast meeting was then suggested but scrapped by the Iranians who said it was “too cheap,” according to the report.

The meeting between Hollande and Rouhani will instead focus strictly on business, with topics such as the civil war in Syria and the regional terrorism expected to top the agenda.

France and a host of other European countries are seeking lucrative business deals with Iran once international sanctions are lifted as part of the nuclear agreement.

A slew of EU countries sent business delegations to Tehran shortly after the deal was signed in July to discuss trade possibilities.

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