BRUSSELS, Belgium - The leader of an Iranian exile group on Wednesday criticized the European Union's decision to negotiate a long-term agreement with Tehran on stopping its alleged nuclear weapons program, saying it would not deter Iranian authorities.
Speaking to EU lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Maryam Rajavi, co-leader of the exile People's Mujahedeen, said Iran's "clerical regime ... poses the greatest challenge to the international community."
Rajavi said the negotiations, launched earlier this week by Britain, Germany and France, were a "European appeasement (which) provided ample opportunity to the mullahs to inch closer to the nuclear bomb."
The EU has offered Iran aid to build up its civilian energy program and a trade deal in return for a definitive commitment that it abandon its alleged weapons program.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, said he was confident a deal could be reached which would go a long way to addressing fears in the West that Tehran was developing nuclear weapons.
Rajavi urged the EU to change its policy on Iran, saying "constructive engagement and human rights dialogue will not change anything," and urged the 25-nation bloc to take the People's Mujahedeen off the EU terrorist list.
The People's Mujahedeen has been based in France shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled Iran's shah.
The group insists it is a peaceful umbrella movement of exiled opponents of the Iranian regime, and calls itself the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
A total of 16 people, including Rajavi, were put under investigation last year before being a Paris appeals court ordered their release.
Top French counterterrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere opened an investigation into possible terrorist links by the group in 2001.
The group, however, has garnered strong backing from numerous EU lawmakers and members of the United States Congress, who all want the group to be taken off the terrorist lists.