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. Iran summons French envoy over nuclear remarks
TEHRAN, Oct 3 (AFP) Oct 03, 2007
Iran on Wednesday summoned a top French diplomat to protest at remarks by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggesting Tehran could be seeking the atomic bomb, state media reported.

"French charge d'affaires Jean Graebling was summoned... to the foreign ministry to receive the protest and hear of the Islamic republic of Iran's dissatisfaction with France's recent positions and its negative tone," according to a ministry statement carried on state television's website.

Since the election of President Nicolas Sarkozy, France has considerably toughened its position towards Iran, and called for new sanctions to oblige Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.

Kouchner -- who caused a stir last month by saying the world must prepare for war with Iran -- told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that "nothing is more dangerous than the situation in Iran.

"The Iranians must stop enriching uranium, because what they are doing encourages the experts to think they are possibly moving towards the atomic bomb and not the civil nuclear power to which they have absolute right."

"It is absolutely vital to have peace," he said. "I did not call for war, I called for peace."

Iran noted that France's stance was despite Tehran last month agreeing a timetable with the International Atomic Energy Agency for it to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear activities.

Tehran said it was also "strongly protesting at France's push for another UN Security resolution and encouraging European nations to impose additional sanctions on Iran," according to the foreign ministry statement.

OPEC member Iran vehemently rejects charges it is seeking a nuclear weapon, saying the atomic drive is aimed solely at generating electricity for a growing population.

Major world powers have agreed to wait for November reports by IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana before deciding whether to push for a third round of sanctions against Tehran.

The Security Council has already passed two resolutions imposing sanctions over Tehran's refusal to heed ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which creates nuclear fuel but can be diverted to make the core of an atomic bomb.

ElBaradei said in an interview with the Financial Times on Wednesday that Iran must provide key details on its programme by late November or its unwillingness to work with the international community will "backfire."

He said the two key issues that required clarification had to do with Iran's research capabilities and its nuclear weaponisation capacity.

"I've told the Iranians: 'This is your litmus test. You committed yourself to come clean. If you don't, nobody will be able to come to your support'."

Iran's foreign ministry had also lashed out at France's stance last month, saying Paris was mimicking hawkish US policy and was being "more American" than the White House itself.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned that France's attitude could hurt its economic interests in the country, with major companies including oil giant Total as well as carmakers Renault and Peugeot doing business in Iran.

The Sarkozy presidency has said it wants European firms not to bid for new business in Iran and for financial institutions to scale back investments, in drive to pressure Iran parallel to UN sanctions moves.

Total had agreed in 2006 a major deal to exploit phase 11 of Iran's giant South Pars gas field to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export but is still yet to execute the project.

Iran has bluntly warned it will go ahead with Iranian firms alone if the deal is not swiftly implemented.

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