Iranian official slams France over military site inspections

Aide to supreme leader maintains Paris ‘does not play any determining role on the international scene,’ has little influence on nuke talks

Ali Akbar Velayati, senior aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (YouTube screenshot)
Ali Akbar Velayati, senior aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (YouTube screenshot)

Tehran on Saturday rejected a key Western demand for military site inspections and slammed the French foreign minister for refusing to back down on this issue, with the supreme leader’s senior aide maintaining Paris has little influence on the nuclear negotiations.

“France does not play any determining role on the international scene other than the harsh statements it makes through some individuals who do not feel responsible,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister, said Saturday, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

With a deadline a month away, both sides appeared unwilling to back down on the issue, with France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius saying Wednesday that any deal without access to military sites “will not be accepted.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also lashed out Thursday, calling on Paris “to refrain from making excessive demands.”

“People need to have their foot in reality, not in illusions,” said Zarif, responding to Fabius’ earlier comments.

On Saturday, a senior Iranian negotiator said the Geneva talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif failed to bridge the differences between Tehran and world powers.

“The differences are still there,” Abbas Araqchi, deputy head of Iran’s negotiating team, said at the end of the meeting.

Araqchi, quoted by state television’s website, said the negotiations would “resume next week at the level of deputies and experts,” rather than have the Kerry-Zarif talks go into a second day as expected.

The latest talks in the run-up to a June 30 deadline came amid heightened diplomatic moves to try to end a 12-year standoff and put a nuclear bomb beyond Iran’s reach.

But just before the Geneva talks got underway, Araqchi said it would be “out of the question” for UN inspectors to question Iranian scientists and inspect military site inspections as part of a final deal with world powers.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out inspections at military sites. Zarif has said the protocol allows “some access” but not inspections of military sites, in order to protect national “military or economic secrets.”

Iran also demanded an accelerated lifting of US, EU and UN sanctions, while the world powers want a “snapback” mechanism to be put in place, enabling the measures to be quickly reimposed if Tehran breaks the deal.

Israel has warned that the deal in its current form is insufficient and may still enable Iran to to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear project will be used for peaceful purposes only.

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