Iran, France to swap ambassadors after strained ties

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Iran and France are set to exchange ambassadors, officials said on Wednesday, after months of tensions including over an alleged Iranian plot to bomb an opposition rally near Paris.

Bahram Ghasemi, a former envoy to Spain and Italy and current spokesman of the foreign ministry, has been appointed as Iran’s new ambassador to France, an official source in Tehran told AFP.


In Paris, the Official Gazette on Wednesday said that Philippe Thiebaud, a former envoy to Pakistan who once represented France at the UN atomic watchdog, had been appointed as ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ghasemi and Thiebaud will fill posts that had been vacant for more than six months after a series of diplomatic fallouts between France and Iran broke out last year.

The previous French ambassador left Iran at the end of his mandate in August while Tehran’s envoy left Paris last summer before finishing his term. No official reason was given for his abrupt departure.

In June, France accused a branch of Iran’s intelligence ministry of attempting to bomb a meeting of the People’s Mujahedin, an Iranian opposition group, near Paris. Tehran vehemently denied the accusations and in return slammed France for hosting the group which it calls a “terrorist cult of hypocrites”.

Relations between France and Iran have also been strained over demands by Paris that Iran limits its ballistic missiles program – which Tehran says is purely defensive. Iran reined in most of its nuclear program under a landmark 2015 deal with major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – that lifted sanctions on Iran.

In May, the United States withdrew from the deal and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran. France and the other European partners to the deal, have been trying to salvage the nuclear accord and set up a payment mechanism to maintain trade and business ties with Iran that would circumvent the US sanctions.

News that Iran and France will exchange ambassadors came a day after the ultraconservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan called for the expulsion of French diplomats from the country. Kayhan claimed that Paris had expelled an Iranian diplomat last autumn. Neither the Iranian nor the French foreign ministries have denied or confirmed the expulsion.

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