Macron angered Iranian officials by meeting prominent women who strongly support the protests

Paris (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron called for international sanctions on Iranian officials in response to the regime’s crackdown on the protest movement he again described as a “revolution”, in an interview broadcast on Monday.

Macron angered Iranian officials on Friday by hosting four prominent women who have strongly supported the two months of protests, which have become the biggest challenge for the Islamic republic since the 1979 ousting of the shah.

“I am in favour of a strong diplomatic reaction and sanctions on the figures of the regime who have a responsibility in the repression of this revolution,” Macron told France Inter radio, in an interview recorded after he met the dissidents on Friday.

According to Norway-based organisation Iran Human Rights, at least 326 people have been killed by the security forces in a crackdown on the nationwide protests.

Macron described the crackdown as “unprecedented”.

“We don’t rule out any option,” he said, noting that Iran’s government was already the target of numerous sanctions.

European Union foreign ministers are due to discuss new sanctions on Monday in Brussels.

Macron repeatedly used the word “revolution” to describe what was happening in Iran.

“It is women who launched this revolution,” he said, adding, “The grandchildren of the (Islamic) revolution are making a revolution.”

“The most impressive thing in this movement, in this revolution, is it involves the young women and men who have never known anything other than this regime,” Macron said.

“They say, ‘Stop. I don’t want to wear the veil. I don’t want this subjugation.’”

Iran’s foreign ministry called Macron’s comments after the meeting with dissidents “regrettable and shameful”.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna meanwhile revealed over the weekend that seven French nationals are being held in Iran.

Activists had been bitterly critical of Macron’s decision to meet Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September, as he sought to revive the 2015 deal on limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

In his interview, Macron said he would keep dialogue open with Raisi but acknowledged that the current situation had further complicated the path towards a nuclear deal.

“Diplomacy is talking with people you disagree with and trying to do something useful,” said Macron, who arrived on Monday at the G20 summit in Indonesia for talks with world leaders.

But he said the chances of reaching a deal “had been made very fragile by the domestic situation in Iran and the demands made by Iran, which are very difficult to achieve”.

“This revolution has changed many things,” he added.