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Hollande to welcome Iran's Rouhani but not for lunch
Hollande won't be dining with Rouhani during his historic visit. Photo: Charles Platiau/AFP

Hollande to welcome Iran's Rouhani but not for lunch

The Local · 27 Jan 2016, 08:59

Published: 27 Jan 2016 08:59 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Jan 2016 08:59 GMT+01:00

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Iranian president Hassan Rouhani will begin his historic visit to France on Wednesday after being invited by François Hollande last year.

However the pair won't be dining together as originally planned.

Iran's Rouhani has reportedly had to turn down a dinner invitation with French president François Hollande at the Elysée for religious reasons.

It appears the Iranian presidency's request for halal meat to be served and for the wine to be left off the table, which is a common request by Iran, was rejected by officials at the Elysée.

“A meal had been planned but fell through,” a source involved in French–Iranian affairs told the RTL site, adding that the leaders were missing out on "a great opportunity".

The pair will now hold their meeting once the two parties have dined separately.

Rouhani, whose country has strict laws governing the consumption of alcohol, had requested a meal with a halal, alcohol-free menu. But this proved unacceptable for the Elysée, who politely declined citing France's “republican traditions” surrounding Elysée dinners.

The Elysée have not confirmed or commented on the reports.

(Hollande meets Rouhani at the United Nations last year. Photo: AFP)

In an attempt to reach a compromise, the Elysée suggested a breakfast meeting instead, but this was reportedly rejected by the Iranians as being “too cheap”.

Rouhani's visit comes after his trip to Italy, where not only was wine off the menu, but nude statues at a museum in Rome had to be covered up so as to spare the head of state's blushes.

The wine row recalls a 2009 incident, when the Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki, declined a dinner invitation with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy because he did not want alcohol at the table. 

The visit of Rouhani was announced in Tehran by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius last July, two weeks after the nuclear deal was struck between the Islamic republic and world powers. 

Acknowledging much had to be done to improve the relationship between Tehran and Paris however, Fabius said both nations stood to benefit from recent diplomacy.

Story continues below…

"We are two great, independent countries, two great civilizations. It is true that in recent years, for reasons that everyone knows, the ties have cooled but now thanks the nuclear deal, things will be able to change," he said.

The trip will be Rouhani's first to France as president, and he is set to meet with representatives of French business including Orange, Total, EADs and Accor, as well as Minister for Economics Emmanuel Macron.

At the time of writing, neither the Elysée nor the Iranian Embassy in Paris had responded to The Local's requests for comment.



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