PARIS, Dec 13 (Reuters) – France said on Sunday its ambassador to Iran would not participate in an online business forum in Tehran this week, in a growing row between Iran and European nations over the execution of Iranian dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam.

Other envoys from Germany, Austria and Italy were also cancelling their involvement in the Dec. 14 event, the French foreign ministry said on Twitter. At the foot of its tweet, the ministry ran the hashtag #nobusinessasusual.

In a separate statement, organisers of the Europe-Iran business forum later said they were postponing the event.

Earlier, Iran‘s Foreign Ministry summoned the envoys from France and from Germany, current holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency, to protest over French and EU criticism of the execution on Saturday, Iranian media reported.

France on Saturday called Zam’s execution “barbaric and unacceptable”, and said it ran counter to Iran‘s international obligations. Zam had been based in Paris before he was captured in Iraq and taken to Iran.

Zam was convicted of fomenting violence during anti-government protests in 2017. His Amadnews feed had more than 1 million followers.

Iran Executes Dissident Journalist Ruhollah Zam – State Media

France and its European allies have strived to keep alive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, in part to save the Iranian economy from collapse, while confronting U.S. efforts to kill the accord.

The new friction over human rights comes as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to take office on Jan. 20, has said he will return the United States to the Obama-era deal if Iran resumes compliance with the agreement.

The EU also strongly condemned Zam’s execution, as did Amnesty International and press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Iranian officials have accused the United States, as well as Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and government opponents living in exile, of stoking the unrest that began in late 2017 as regional protests over economic hardship spread nationwide.

Officials said 21 people were killed during the unrest and thousands were arrested. The unrest was among the worst Iran has seen in decades, and was followed by even deadlier protests last year against fuel price rises.

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(Reporting by John Irish, additional reporting by Davide Barbuscia in Dubai Writing by Richard Lough Editing by Gareth Jones and Frances Kerry)

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