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IRAN - Iranian president to visit Italy, France on first official Europe tour

Iranian President Hassan Rohani flew to Italy on Monday at the start of his first official visit to Europe, looking to sign multi-billion dollar contracts to help to modernise Iran’s economy after years of crippling financial sanctions.

 Heading a 120-strong delegation of Iranian business leaders and ministers, Rohani will spend two days in Rome before flying to France on Wednesday, hoping to burnish Tehran’s international credentials at a time of turmoil across the Middle East.

While diplomacy will figure high on his agenda, trade ties are likely to dominate the headlines, with Iran announcing plans to buy more than 160 European planes, mainly from Airbus, on the eve of Rohani’s departure.

Officials in Rome said Italian companies were poised to sign deals worth up to 17 billion euros ($18.4 billion) over the next two days, including in the energy and steel sectors.

“Italy is very important to Iran. They’ve had a historic trade relationship for years, and that’s suffered… with the sanctions,” FRANCE 24’s Josephine McKenna reported from Rome. “There’s a lot riding on this visit, and we’ve already seen some speculation about deals.”

The deals will give a boost to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is struggling to revive Italy’s underperforming economy.

Read more: Asia-pacific - Iranian president to visit Italy, France on first official Europe tour - France 24

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