French Jewish groups have condemned a visit by Transport Minister Bernard Pons to Iran, saying that it was particularly offensive after Tehran praised two Hamas suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Ashkelon.
“We question the reason for the visit since Iran is notorious for being one of the pillars of international terrorism, Hamas and especially the Islamic Jihad,” CRIF, the umbrella organization of secular French Jewish organizations, said in a statement.
“Following the declarations by the Tehran authorities justifying the carnage in Jerusalem, we demand Mr. Pons’ immediate return as a sign of official protest by the French government,” the statement added.
Iran’s state-run radio applauded the twin bombings Sunday in Jerusalem and the port city of Ashkelon, which claimed 25 victims.
France-Israel, a conservative French Jewish group promoting friendship and cooperation with Israel, said that the trip this week was “an affront to Franco-Israeli friendship and represents the abandon of moral principals which [French] foreign policy boasts of.”
Pons is the first French cabinet minister to visit Iran since 1992.
The Iranian press agency IRNA quoted a top official as saying that Iran appreciated France’s “principled stand” against the United States’ 1995 trade and investment ban on Iran.
France is one of several U.S. allies that refused to join the ban and has expressed concern about legislation in the U.S. Congress to punish oil firms doing business with Iran.
Several French oil firms are negotiating with Iran to develop new oil and gas fields.
During his visit, Pons signed an agreement with Iranian Roads and Transport Minister Akbar Torkan to cooperate in building airport and rail facilities and to boost transport ties.
According to the agreement, France will help build an express rail link between Tehran and the central city of Isfahan and set up repair facilities and other services at an airport being built south of the Iranian capital.