French foreign minister says will visit Iran 'next week'
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoFrance's foreign minister Laurent Fabius said July 21 he would visit Iran "next week", after the historic deal on its nuclear programme.
Although Fabius did not provide more precise details, his aides told AFP that the trip would likely take place next Wednesday.
"I will be there next week," Fabius told French radio.
"My colleague (Mohammad Javad Zarif) invited me. I was invited before but didn't go, but now I think everything is in place for me to go," he said, adding that he would also hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Fabius's trip will be hot on the heels of a similar visit from German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who was the first top Western official to visit the country since world powers and Tehran struck a nuclear deal after years of negotiations.
Gabriel, who is also Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy and energy minister, embarked on a three-day trip with a small delegation of representatives from companies and industry groups.
Western powers are scrambling to get their feet in the door in Iran's economy after the long-delayed nuclear pact.
France used to have a strong presence in Iran before the sanctions went into effect, with Peugeot and Renault being major players in the Iranian auto industry and energy giant Total heavily involved in the oil sector.
But two-way trade has fallen from four billion euros ($4.4 billion) in 2004 to just 500 million euros in 2013, according to French statistics.
The French employers' federation, MEDEF, is due to visit Iran in September to try to kickstart ties.
Some 107 representatives from the body travelled to Iran early last year, triggering anger in the US which said it was still too early to do business with Tehran.