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Iran Dismisses EU Concerns About Missiles But Sends Diplomat To Paris

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking at the UN alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Sept. 2018. File photo

Iran dismissed on Tuesday European Union criticism about its missile program and human rights abuses, calling it "non-constructive", as its second MOST senior diplomat travelled to France for talks.

On Monday, the EU issued its "conclusions" about Iran in a statement that backed the trade mechanism set up by it biggest three members but also voiced concern over Iran's behavior in some areas. The trade mechanism is a new instrument designed to shield Iran from U.S. sanctions while Europe hopes to contain its regional policies.

The European Union's biggest concern voiced in the statement is Iran's ballistic missile program, but it also urged Iran to stop activity that deepened mistrust and destabilized the region.

The Iranian foreign ministry said Iran’s missile program was "defensive and deterrent" and Iran would never negotiate over it with other countries.

"Clear threats against the Islamic Republic is not constructive, efficient and helpful, and it is not in line with regional security and real interests of Europe," Iran's foreign ministry said in a statement published by the Tasnim news agency, run by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.

Iran on Tuesday also ruled out linkage between the new trade mechanism and anti-money laundering, anti terror financing legislation.

"Linking implementation of this mechanism... with the requirements of institutions such as the FATF is unacceptable," the foreign ministry said, referring to the international Financial Action Task Force.

Iran is on an FATF blacklist drawn up to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorist groups, but the Paris-based organization has suspended counter-measures since 2017 while Tehran works on reforms.

However, it was announced on Tuesday that the political deputy of Iran's foreign ministry Abbas Araqchi had left for France on Monday to hold talks with his counterpart in Paris.

This would be the sixth round of bilateral talks between the two countries and Iran's state broadcaster releasing the news said the one-day trip was scheduled beforehand. Iranian media reports that besides other issues the trade mechanism will also be discussed.

The European Union said in its 12-point statement that it was committed to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of last May.

Last week, Britain, France and Germany launched a system to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran in areas not violating U.S. sanctions, with the intention of expanding it in the future.

However, the EU warned that it could no longer tolerate what it said were Iranian assassination plots on its soil.

Iran's foreign ministry rejected the warning.

"Raising such baseless and hollow accusations while known terrorist and criminal groups are free in Europe, is non-constructive at this stage, and is in line with the goals of enemies who seek to undermine Iran’s relations with Europe," it said.

The ministry welcomed the new channel for non-dollar trade, known as the Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), but called it "late and inadequate".

Iran warned that it would revise relations with Europe if it did not benefit economically from INSTEX.

With reporting by Reuters