Wine before diplomacy: Iran snubs French state dinner over alcohol
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Iran’s President Hassan Rohani has apparently objected to dining at the Elysée presidential palace during his upcoming visit to Paris if wine is served at the meal, French media have reported.
Rohani is visiting Paris as part of a four-day tour of Italy and France beginning November 14 making him the first Iranian president to travel to Europe in a decade, according to the state news agency IRNA.
The tour – which comes four months after the Iran nuclear deal was reached – will first take Rohani to Italy, where he will meet President Sergio Mattarella and Pope Francis, Iranian presidential spokesman Parviz Esmaili told IRNA.
He will then travel to France on November 16-17, where he is expected to give a speech at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris.
“He will officially be received by French President François Hollande on Tuesday morning and will hold talks with French government officials before returning to Tehran,” Esmaili said.
Rohani’s upcoming trip has already caused an uproar in France, where RTL radio reported on Monday that the Iranian president has refused to dine at the Elysée presidential palace if wine is served during the meal.
Although Iran had requested a halal menu, which customarily means no alcohol, France was unwilling to break with the tradition surrounding official state lunches and dinners, according to RTL.
The controversy has now threatened to overshadow Rohani’s visit, during which he is expected to discuss a number of issues with Hollande, including the nuclear deal signed in Vienna as well as the Syrian conflict.
Hollande’s advisers did not hide their frustration over the fuss, which they described on Monday as “ridiculous”, according to French daily Le Monde.
“The programme has yet to be finalised,” a source close to the French president told Le Monde, adding that a delegation is due to travel to Iran later this week to work out the details of Rohani’s trip.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)