France opposes Iranian request to lift arms embargo
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France opposes Iranian request to lift arms embargo

French envoy to Israel calls Tehran’s mid-negotiation request to rescind UN ban on weapons trade ‘unacceptable’

French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

As major powers continued to work Thursday towards finalizing a nuclear deal with Iran, France’s ambassador to Israel said Iran’s request to lift the United Nations arms embargo was “unacceptable.”

“As we draw near the end, some negotiators are just trying to get last-minute results,” Patrick Maisonnave said in an interview with Army Radio. “A few days ago Iran requested the lifting of the arms embargo which is unacceptable to us and our partners,” he said.

On Monday, a day before second missed deadline to reach a nuclear accord, Iran pushed to lift the UN arms embargo on the country as a parallel deal — a demand that the United States opposes as it seeks to limit Tehran’s Mideast clout.

A senior Iranian official said his country and the six world powers with which it is negotiating are also working on a UN resolution that endorses any future nuclear deal.

Lifting the arms embargo would be separate from a long-term accord that foresees limits on Iran’s nuclear programs in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic. But Iran also sees existing UN resolutions imposed on Iran’s nuclear program and the accompanying sanctions as unjust and illegal. It has insisted that those resolutions be lifted since the start of international negotiations nearly a decade ago to limit its nuclear-arms making capability.

Officials from the US and Iran during nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Austria, on July 3, 2015. (AFP/Carlos Barria/Pool)
Officials from the US and Iran during nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Austria, on July 3, 2015. (AFP/Carlos Barria/Pool)

After world powers and Iran reached a framework pact in April, the US said “important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles” would be incorporated in any new UN guidelines for Iran.

Negotiators and some of the foreign ministers from the six world powers plus Iran gathered in Vienna to complete a comprehensive nuclear deal by June 30. When they couldn’t reach agreement by then, they agreed to extend the deadline to July 7. But many core issues remain, and the second deadline was missed as well.

While the discussions have been focused on uranium stockpiles and the timing for lifting economic sanctions, Iran’s long-standing desire to have the arms embargo lifted at the signing of a deal is another wrinkle thrown into the mix.

Russia and China have expressed support for lifting the embargo, which was imposed in 2007 as part of a series of penalties over its nuclear program.

But the US doesn’t want the arms ban ended because it could allow Tehran to expand its military assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s embattled government, for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. It also would increase already stalwart opposition to the deal in Congress and in Israel.

Lifting the embargo is “one of the important issues we are discussing,” said the Iranian official, who briefed reporters on the status of the talks in Vienna on condition he not be quoted by name. “There should not be any place for the arms embargo.”

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama estimated the chances of reaching a final nuclear deal with Iran at “less than 50-50,” as he worked to reassure lawmakers from his own party that he would not accept a bad deal.

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