Iran rejects Macron call for talks on missiles

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France's President Emmanuel Macron greets a soldier during the Armistice Day ceremonies marking the end of World War I in Paris, France, on Saturday. — Reuters

DUBAI — Iran rejected on Sunday a call by French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on Tehran's ballistic missiles, saying they were defensive and unrelated to a nuclear agreement with world powers.

On Thursday, Macron said during a visit to Dubai that he was "very concerned" by Iran's ballistic missile program, mentioning a missile fired from Yemen and intercepted by Saudi Arabia earlier this month. He raised the prospect of possible sanctions with regard to those activities.

"There are negotiations we need to start on Iran's ballistic missiles," Macron said.

In the interview with Al-Ittihad, published during Macron's 24-hour visit to Abu Dhabi, the French president said: "It is important to remain firm with Iran over its regional activities and its ballistic program."

But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi rejected that possibility. "France is fully aware of our country's firm position that Iran's defense affairs are not negotiable," he said.

"We have told French officials repeatedly that the nuclear deal is not negotiable and other issues will not be allowed to be added to it," Qassemi said, according to a statement on the ministry's website.

The United States accused Iran on Tuesday of supplying Yemen's Houthi rebels with a missile that was fired into Saudi Arabia in July and called for the United Nations to hold Tehran accountable for violating two UN Security Council resolutions .

Saudi Arabia and its allies say Iran is supplying missiles and other weapons to the Houthis, saying the arms were not present in Yemen before conflict broke out there in 2015.

The United States has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, saying its missile tests violate a UN resolution that calls on Tehran not to undertake activities related to missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran says its missile program is defensive and it has no plans to build nuclear-capable missiles.

Macron also said there was no immediate alternative to the Iranian nuclear deal — long lambasted by US President Donald Trump — which curbs Iran's nuclear program.

France has been trying to salvage the 2015 nuclear which Iran signed with six world powers -- Britain, China, Germany, France, Russia and the United States.

On Oct. 13, Macron told Iranian President Hassan Rohani in a phone call that France remained committed to the deal.

But the French leader stressed it was also necessary to have a dialogue with Iran on other strategic issues, including Tehran's ballistic missile program and regional security, a proposal ruled out by Iran. — Agencies


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