A senior French official has said French President Emmanuel Macron personally told US President Donald Trump that Iran’s chief diplomat was invited as G7 leaders gathered for their summit.
The French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive discussions, would not say when or how Mr Trump was informed of Sunday’s surprise arrival of Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
His visit has been considered a high-stakes gamble for Mr Macron, who is the host of the gathering in Biarritz.
Mr Zarif spent about five hours in Biarritz after his plane touched down at the airport, which has been closed since Friday to all flights unrelated to the official G7 delegations.
The official noted that Mr Macron and the US leader met for two hours on Saturday and discussed Iran at length, as well as at the informal group dinner Saturday night.
Mr Trump later said he wasn’t surprised by the invitation.
He said he did not want to say when Mr Macron had spoken to him about Mr Zarif’s visit but added: “He asked me. I don’t consider that disrespectful at all, especially when he asked me for approval.”
For several months, Mr Macron has assumed a lead role in trying to save the 2015 nuclear accord, which has been unravelling since Mr Trump pulled the US out of the agreement.
Mr Macron had earlier outlined details of a French plan to ease tensions with Iran by allowing Iran to export oil for a limited amount of time, said a French diplomat.
In exchange, Iran would need to fully put in place the 2015 nuclear deal, reduce tensions in the Persian Gulf and open talks.
The plan was met with a sceptical reception by Mr Trump, and the White House paid only a cursory mention of the Gulf in its official report of the lunch meeting.
The final day of the summit will finish with a joint news conference between Mr Macron and Mr Turmp on Monday, following meetings on climate change and how digitalisation is transforming the world.