15 Mar 2016

Don't impose sanctions over missile tests, says Iran minister

9:19 am on 15 March 2016

Prime Minister John Key has met with the Iranian Foreign Minister in his Beehive office this afternoon.

Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in New Zealand yesterday - the first visit by an Iranian Foreign Minister in more than a decade.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to media in Vienna. Photo: AFP

John Key said the government wanted to refresh ties with Iran after long-running economic sanctions were lifted this year.

"Iran was formerly NZ's fifth-largest export market - now that sanctions have been removed we want to re-establish that relationship," Mr Key said.

They also discussed regional issues relevant to New Zealand's role on the United Nations Security Council, he said, including relationships with Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

"Obviously we have some concerns about the human rights issues situation in Iran and I raised that with Minister Zarif," he said.

Speaking to Morning Report today, Mr Zarif said Iran's missile tests were not against a UN Security Council resolution, and they would continue to develop the weapons.

Sanctions against Iran were lifted in January after the country agreed to limit its nuclear capabilities.

However, there had been calls for sanctions to resume following the tests last month.

BBC reported this morning that Europe and the US would hold talks in Paris to discuss the issue. The US had already imposed some new sanctions.

But Mr Zarif said Iran needed missiles.

The Iranian flag outside the Beehive in Wellington.

The Iranian flag outside the Beehive in Wellington. Photo: RNZ/Benedict Collins

"We spent a fraction of any other country in the region on defence, and missiles are a means of defence that we require," he said.

The missiles were not designed to carry nuclear warheads, and Iran had provided guarantees that it would not develop nuclear weapons, he said.

New Zealand exporters had welcomed the removal of sanctions against Iran.

In the 1980s the country was one of New Zealand's top five export markets, and a massive importer of lamb.

Mr Zarif said he hoped New Zealand and Iran could rebuild their trade relationship.

There were opportunities for investment in geothermal, nano and bio technologies, which Iran had made progress in, he said.

Mr Zarif [ http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/298813/mccully-meets-with-iranian-minister met with his New Zealand counterpart Murray McCully yesterday.

They discussed trade and economic issues, but also New Zealand's concerns about human rights abuses in Iran, Mr McCully said.

Iran was being investigated by the UN for human rights abuses but Mr Zarif told Morning Report this was politically motivated.

"We are interested in a genuine human rights dialogue, not a sham," he said.

Mr Zarif also met with Trade Minister Todd McClay and Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy today, and would also speak to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with Prime Minister John Key on 14 March 2016 at Parliament.

Mr Zarif shakes hands with Mr Key after their meeting today at Parliament Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Murray McCully and Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Mr McCully and Mr Zarif Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

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