In his high-profile European visit, the Iranian president has gotten a taste of how eager the continent is to tap into his country's market. Rouhani has hailed warming relations between Iran and France.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani was formally welcomed to France Thursday morning at the gold-dome Invalides monument ahead of meetings with business leaders, the head of UNESCO, and President Francois Hollande. He expressed a desire to "turn the page" during the highly-anticipated visit, the first by an Iranian president since 1999.
"Let us forget the resentment," said Rouhani, weeks after Western sanctions against his country were dropped in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program. "We are ready to turn the page," the president said, and create "a new relationship between our countries."
After his talk, French automaker Peugeot announced a joint venture with Iranian car manufacturer Khodro to produce 200,000 cars a year at a plant outside of Tehran. Rouhani is also expected to confirm later a purchase of 100 passenger jets from Toulouse-based aircraft firm Airbus.
Following the Peugeot declaration, Rouhani met with France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who said the new nations should put the past to bed. "France is available for Iran. Iran can count on France," said the premier.
Protestors blast Iran human rights record
Sarah Constantin said she wanted to put pressure on President Hollande to bring up human rights with Rouhani
The visit from Iran's leader was not all champagne and signing deals, however. Feminist protestors from the FEMEN group launched a protest over his visit, draping a huge banner across one of Paris's pedestrian bridges that read "Welcome Rouhani, Executioner of Freedom." Activist Sarah Constantin, staged a mock hanging under the bridge while nearly naked.
Iran is a prolific user of capital punishment, ranked second behind China in 2014 according to Amnesty International.
Thursday evening will see Rouhani and Hollande attend a special ceremony celebrating renewed friendship between the two countries. The pair are set to sign around 20 bilateral agreements.
es/jil (AFP, AP)