France denies Iran's 'false statements' on citizens' arrests

PARIS (Reuters) - France on Wednesday denied statements by Iran's interior ministry that it had arrested French intelligence officers amid protests in the country and demanded the release of all of its citizens held in Iran.

Ties between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks, to which France is one of the parties, have stalled and Tehran has detained seven of its nationals.

"France categorically denies the false statements of the Iranian Minister of the Interior on our compatriots recently arrested in this country and recalls that it considers all these detentions to be arbitrary," the foreign ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.

"As the (French foreign) minister indicated, we are aware of a total of seven French nationals who are now arbitrarily detained in Iran."

Several French intelligence agents were arrested in connection with protests in Iran, its interior minister said on Wednesday, amid persisting anti-government demonstrations that have seen a rise in tensions with the West.

France lashed out at Iran on Oct. 6, accusing it of "dictatorial practices" and taking its citizens hostage after a video was aired in which a French couple appeared to confess to spying. Iran has linked weeks of unrest to foreign foes.

"France condemns in the strongest terms the treatment to which the Iranian regime is subjecting our compatriots. We hold the Iranian authorities responsible for the fate and treatment of all French nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran at this time," it said.

Earlier on Wednesday, talking to reporters at the Group of 20 (G20) summit, President Emmanuel Macron accused Iran of being increasingly aggressive towards France.

(Reporting by John Irish, Editing by Louise Heavens and Andrew Cawthorne)