France wants to improve relations with Iran despite the arrest here of eight suspected terrorists who allegedly have links with Tehran. Police last week detained six Tunisians and two Frenchmen of Lebanese extraction. They are suspected of being behind a series of bomb attacks in Paris last September, which killed 11 people and injured more than 150. Some suspects reportedly told police they had links to Tehran and pro-Iranian extremist groups in Lebanon.
The arrests came at a delicate moment. Prime Minister Jacques Chirac's government is attempting to gain the release of six French hostages in Lebanon. The pro-Iranian Revolutionary Justice Organization has threatened to kill TV technician Jean-Louis Normandin if France does not reduce ties with Iran's arch-enemy Iraq.
Apparently fearful of Iran's response to news of last week's arrests, French officials played it down. A spokesman for Mr. Chirac ruled out diplomatic reprisals against Iran until after the judicial process against the eight suspects. In private, other senior officials emphasized that the affair would not affect relations with Iran.
France is trying to ``normalize'' those relations. Discreet negotiations have been carried on for the last few months to resolve economic disputes between the two countries. France wants Iran to honor contracts broken after the Shah's fall - and, even more, to help free the French hostages. Iran wants France to pay back a $1 billion plus loan made by the Shah.
For many Frenchmen, the government's conciliatory approach toward Iran resembles its stand in the case of convicted Lebanese terrorist Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. The government at first reportedly tried to trade Mr. Abdallah for a French hostage in Lebanon. At Abdallah's trial last month, the government prosecutor asked for a light sentence. The court, sentenced him to life imprisonment.
``The fight against terrorism is a war, which can not be reduced to unending financial and diplomatic conversations,'' commented the daily Le Monde.
The newspaper continued, ``Mr. Reagan's misadventures after the revelation of the Irangate scandal should show the risks.''