Thursday 28 January 2016

Almost naked Femen protests during Iran president visit

A near-naked woman hung from a noose-like rope from a Paris bridge to demonstrate against Iran's record on executions during president Hassan Rouhani's visit.

"Welcome Rouhani, Executioner of Freedom" read a huge banner across the pedestrian bridge over the Seine River near the Eiffel Tower. The protest on Thursday by feminist group Femen was calling attention to the large number of executions in Iran.

Iran is one of the world's largest users of the death penalty, ranking second behind China in 2014, according to Amnesty International. Most Iranian executions are linked to drug smuggling.

Sarah Constantin, the Femen activist who hung from the bridge, said they organised the "public hanging" to call attention to those executed for political reasons and put pressure on François Hollande, French president, to bring up human rights in his meeting with Mr Rouhani.

Mr Rouhani is reaching out to European businesses on the first visit by an Iranian president to Europe since 1999.

Mr Rouhani, speaking to French executives on Thursday, urged efforts to unblock financing for resumed trade now that sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme have been lifted. Continued US bank restrictions against Iran are a hurdle to many European countries seeking renewed commerce.

Mr Rouhani praised France and said he wants to use the positive atmosphere after a landmark nuclear accord to boost ties.

Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said the countries should forget past rancour. "France is available for Iran," he said. "Iran can count on France."

Mr Rouhani is also meeting on Thursday with the chief of Unesco, the Paris-based UN cultural body, and speaking to high-level French executives whose companies are interested in resuming trade with his long-isolated nation of 80 million people.

Later he and Mr Hollande will oversee a ceremony for signing about 20 bilateral accords.

The trip is an effort to usher in a new era after a landmark accord to curb Iran's nuclear programme and lift Western sanctions. However, France is now weighing new sanctions over Iranian ballistic missile tests.


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