Rouhani due in France for trade talks

Iran President Hassan Rouhani talks during a business forum in Rome, Italy, January 26, 2016.Image copyright

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In Italy President Rouhani met with both Italian leader Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani will arrive in France on Wednesday for the second leg of his state visit to Europe, after three days in Italy.

Mr Rouhani is expected to secure valuable trade deals following the lifting of international sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Among them is a likely agreement with French aircraft manufacturer Airbus for more than 100 new aircraft.

Mr Rouhani will also meet French President Francois Hollande.

Mr Rouhani’s five-day visit to Italy and France is the first by an Iranian president in nearly two decades, as the Iranian president seeks to rebuild economic ties and secure new trade deals.

Iran is likely to need hundreds of new aircraft in the coming years as it re-establishes commercial air travel restricted by the sanctions, and French carmakers will once again be free to supply to the Islamic Republic.

As well as a deal for Airbus planes, contracts are likely to be signed with car manufacturers Peugeot and Renault, Mr Rouhani told reporters on Monday.

Nudes covered up

In Italy, Mr Rouhani met with President Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis. Monday saw contracts worth around €17bn ($18.4bn; £12bn) signed between Iranian and Italian companies.

At Rome’s Capitoline Museum, where Mr Rouhani and Mr Renzi met, nude statues were covered up and wine was removed from official menus out of respect for the Islamic Republic’s strict laws governing propriety.

Iranian diplomats reportedly requested that no wine be served at Mr Rouhani’s lunch meeting with Mr Hollande, leading French officials to postpone the meeting until after lunch.

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Plywood boxes concealed the nude statues at the museum in Rome

During their meeting, Pope Francis urged Iran to work with other Middle Eastern countries against terrorism and arms trafficking, the Vatican said.

Iran has been accused of funding militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Mr Rouhani asked the pontiff to pray for him, and gave him the gift of a hand-made carpet.

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