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. France worried about rapid advances in Iranian nuclear programme
PARIS, April 23 (AFP) Apr 23, 2006
France said Sunday it was concerned about rapid advances Iran was making in its nuclear programme, as a UN Security Council deadline neared for Tehran to cease the activities ticked down.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said his country was unsettled by an evaluation by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei that Iran had made quick progress in the nuclear field.

He told Radio J that France was also "excessively worried" by a comment earlier Sunday by Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi that "Iran's research activities are irreversible."

The UN Security Council has given Iran to Friday to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

Douste-Blazy said: "If the response is negative, the Security Council will assume its responsibilities and everybody knows that in the panoply of options before the Security Council there are possible sanctions."

He added that ministers from UN Security Council countries would be meeting in the coming weeks "to prepare the decisions of the Security Council".

The United States and Europe are pushing for a hard line from the council out of fear that Iran is using its nuclear programme to create an atomic arsenal.

Tehran has repeatedly denied that and insisted its programme was purely for nuclear energy purposes.

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