Feb 05 - A trip to Iran by French business executives has provoked a reaction from the U.S. As Joanna Partridge reports, the Secretary of State John Kerry has told his French counterpart it gives the wrong impression that it's business as usual in Tehran.
Europe's second biggest economy needs all the help it can get at the moment. No surprise then that a French business delegation was among the first to arrive in Iran after an international agreement was reached over its nuclear programme. The deal means sanctions against Iran will be eased. And that's triggered a race among western firms to explore lucrative opportunities. Officials from Airbus, Total and Renault along with Safran, Alstom and L'Oreal were reportedly among the delegation of around 100 executives - described as the largest European business delegation to visit Iran since the 1979 revolution. The French visitors were given a warm welcome on Monday by the Iranian President's Chief of Staff. (SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) MOHAMMAD NAHAVANDI AN, PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI'S CHIEF OF STAFF, SAYING: "This new atmosphere of honourable cooperation based on mutual rights and benefits lays a completely new path before us." But not everyone is quite so enthusiastic. The U.S. Secretary of State has called the trip "not helpful" He said it gave the wrong impression that it was business as usual in Iran, pointing out the relaxation of penalties is only temporary, limited and targeted. There's been no official response yet from the French government. The business trip wasn't organised by them - but by a private French employers' association. That doesn't mean any business they can secure won't be welcome though. France is one of the few key euro zone economies not yet seeing signs of growth.