Blood scandal mars Iran trip for French minister

A trip to Tehran by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius faced a threat of being overshadowed on Tuesday by a tainted blood scandal from the 1980s which killed hundreds of Iranians.

Blood scandal mars Iran trip for French minister
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Photo: AFP
Fabius is due in Tehran on Wednesday and Iran's conservative media carried attacks about the imported blood case which occurred when he was France's prime minister.
Fabius was one of six foreign ministers in the talks with Iran that led to a landmark nuclear deal in Vienna on July 14th.
His Tehran visit is geared to winning new business in Iran for French companies which, until the imposition of Western sanctions, had been among the biggest foreign investors in the Islamic republic.
Some ten of Iran's 290 members of parliament have written to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asking him to withdraw the invitation for Fabius to visit on account of his “treacherous acts against Iran,” ISNA news agency reported.
Iran's government has defended the visit.
In the 1980s, the French National Blood Transfusion Centre distributed blood products contaminated with the AIDS virus, causing the death of hundreds of people in France, where the products were subsequently banned.
But lots of contaminated blood continued to be exported, including to Iran, leading to the infection and deaths of hundreds. In 1999, Fabius was acquitted by the French courts over the scandal.
Fars, a news outlet associated with the Islamic republic's powerful Revolutionary Guards, quoted Mojtaba Zolnour, a hardline cleric, as criticising the French foreign minister. 
“Fabius is coming to Iran during the Support of Haemophiliacs week and this reminds us about losing some of our compatriots because of imported infected blood.
“The main cause of it was Fabius,” Zolnour said.
He also hit out at Fabius over French support for now executed dictator Saddam Hussein's Iraq during its 1980-88 war with Iran and over his “hard” position during the negotiations for this month's nuclear deal.
“During the imposed war, France was at Saddam's service,” Zolnour said, citing deliveries of hi-tech Mirage fighters.
“France had a serious role in helping Saddam have access to weapons of mass destruction,” he added, arguing that Fabius's visit was all about trade.
“We had around $30-40 billion of trade with France before the sanctions which led it to drop to $3 billion. Fabius is very much under the influence of France's economists, companies and cartels.
“They want to guarantee their share of Iran's future market.”
Saying he was not calling for Fabius's trip to be cancelled, Zolnour added: “Officials should pay attention to the fact that an enemy is going to enter our country and so our national interests, dignity and power should be preserved.
“We should not get excited by Western officials coming so that they won't feel that we are excited.”
Health Minister Hassan Hashemi said the blood scandal was a separate legal dispute and Fabius's trip should go ahead.
“Fabius is an international figure… it is not in the interest of the country to raise it (the blood row) now,” Hashemi said, according to the
official IRNA news agency.

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France revives call for Israel-Palestine talks

France is looking to quickly revive plans for an international conference to "bring about the two-state solution" to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday.

France revives call for Israel-Palestine talks
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius arrives at a meeting with the Iranian president at the Elysee Palace on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP
“In the coming weeks, France will take… steps in order to organise an international conference gathering each of the parties' principle partners — principally Americans, Europeans and Arabs — in order to preserve and to bring about the two-state solution,” he said in remarks to diplomats.
France has in recent years raised the idea of hosting an international conference to revive peace efforts which would bring in all the key players in a show of support for a final settlement of the decades-long conflict. But the idea has never taken concrete shape.
“We must not allow the two-state solution to fall apart,” he said, noting that there had been no halt to Israel's settlement activity on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Peace talks collapsed in April 2014 and since then, the situation has deteriorated, with the prospects of fresh dialogue appearing more remote than ever.
A wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks which began on October 1 has killed 25 Israelis, while over the same period, 159 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out attacks although others died in clashes and demonstrations.
Should efforts to breathe life into the moribund peace process fail, France would move to unilaterally recognise Palestine as a state, Fabius said.
“And what will happen if this last-ditch attempt at reaching a negotiated solution hits a stumbling block?” he said. “In that case, we will have to live up to our responsibilities and recognise a Palestinian state.”
In November 2014, the French parliament backed a motion urging the government to recognise Palestine as a state as a way of achieving a “definitive resolution of the conflict” in a move which Paris has said could happen if the peace process remained in the doldrums.
France has also pushed for a UN resolution that would guide negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian state and which could include a timeframe for talks.
Until now, France's diplomatic efforts have been largely rebuffed by Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting that peace would only come through direct negotiations between the parties and not through UN resolutions “imposed from the outside.”
Earlier on Friday, the Palestinians began waging a new campaign at the United Nations to revive peace prospects, with envoy Riyad Mansour highlighting the need for a “collective approach” to solve the conflict and saying a resolution condemning Israel's settlement expansion could be a first step.