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. Rice criticises French plans for Iran overture
BERLIN, Jan 18 (AFP) Jan 18, 2007
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday implicitly criticised French plans to send an envoy to Iran to discuss the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East.

"I think we all need to stay focused on the fact that Iran is in violation of a Security Council resolution until it suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities," Rice said, while added that each country took its own decisions.

Rice, currently visiting Germany, also noted that Iran had not completely fulfilled its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The French foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed it was discussing plans to send a special envoy to Iran to discuss "regional issues" including Lebanon and Israel's right to exist.

Iran is seen as the major supporter of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah.

The French daily Le Monde has reported that plans to send Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy had been shelved after opposition by the United States and several Middle Eastern countries.

"I think that at this point in time, given what we've just done in the Security Council to pass the Chapter 7 resolution that makes it very clear that Iran will endure isolation if it cannot bring itself to respond positively to the international demands, that this is not the time to break a longstanding American policy of not engaging with the Iranians bilaterally," Rice said at a new conference with her German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

In meetings in Tuesday and Wednesday, Kuwait's emir urged Rice to open dialogue with Syria and Iran in order to safeguard the Gulf's security, the emirate's foreign minister said.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah "insisted on the need for (US) dialogue with states neighbouring Iraq," Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah told reporters when asked about talks between the emir and Rice.

The emir told Rice "there should be no US breakoff with these states and there should be a dialogue essentially with Syria, and with Iran, to safeguard Gulf security," the minister was quoted as saying by the KUNA news agency.

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