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Iran foreign minister Zarif in dramatic visit to G7 summit

Iran foreign minister Zarif in dramatic visit to G7 summit

Biarritz (France): Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew into Biarritz in southern France for the G7 summit on Sunday in an unexpected and dramatic attempt to break a diplomatic deadlock over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.

Zarif's presence had not been announced and represented an attempt by French host Emmanuel Macron to find a way to soothe spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States.

He was not expected to hold face-to-face talks with US President Donald Trump but the presence of the two men in the same place sparked hopes of a detente.

"Zarif... has arrived in Biarritz... to continue talks regarding the recent measures between the presidents of Iran and France," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted, after flight tracking sites spotted that Zarif's plane had landed in Biarritz.

The French presidency confirmed his arrival but emphasised no talks were planned with the American side.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump had in the past said that if Iran "wants to sit down and negotiate he will not set preconditions," adding he would not make any more comments about "who's here" at the G7.

Macron held talks with Zarif in Paris on the eve of the G7 summit and has been leading efforts to bring Tehran and Washington back to the negotiating table.

Trump's policy of applying "maximum pressure" on Tehran via crippling sanctions has been criticised by European powers and is seen as raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

Macron has urged the US administration to offer some sort of relief to Iran, such as lifting sanctions on oil sales to China and India, or a new credit line to enable exports, French officials have said.

This is seen as a first step to get Iran back to the negotiating table, which could then lead to a new international agreement to limit its nuclear programme.

Last year, Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of a landmark deal on the nuclear programme reached between Iran, the US, European powers, Russia and China.

Despite the tensions, Trump proclaimed Sunday that the G7 summit was going "beautifully," but there was no masking over cracks between the US president and his allies on many issues.

Leaders of the G7 countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- put on a united front as they spent a second day in the high-end French surfing town of Biarritz. Trump arrived in Biarritz fresh from having drastically upped the ante in the trade war with China.

European leaders lined up to press for caution and on Sunday Trump gave a glimmer of hope that he was reconsidering his all-or-nothing approach to the dispute between the world's two biggest economies.

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