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. Iran nuclear drive 'a grave threat': French FM
JERUSALEM, Nov 18 (AFP) Nov 18, 2007
Iran's controversial nuclear programme is one of the gravest threats currently facing the world, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was quoted as saying in an interview in Israel on Sunday.

"The Iranian nuclear programme is one of the gravest crises currently hanging over world order," he was quoted as saying in the Haaretz newswpaper, while also insisting on "reaching a negotiated settlement agreeable to all."

The UN Security Council has still to decide whether to impose a third round of sanctions on Tehran, which the West fears is trying to covertly develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.

An International Atomic Energy Agency report issued this week said Iran had taken important steps in revealing the extent of its nuclear programme but was still defying UN demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.

Kouchner said France intends "to continue with great determination along this path (sanctions) which is the only way to bring about an agreed solution."

However he also said that Paris saw sanctions as the only path "that will prevent us from having, one day, to be faced with a dilemma of 'an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran'."

Kouchner also said that France "will never compromise on Israel's security."

Israel is widely considered to have the Middle East's sole -- albeit undeclared -- nuclear arsenal, with an estimated 200 warheads.

Meeting with Kouchner, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that "the time for dealing with this issue is dwindling."

"According to Israeli assessments, if all circumstances work in Iran's favour, from a technological point of view, Iran may by the end of 2009 have all the components for prepare a nuclear bomb," a statement from Olmert's office quoted him as telling Kouchner.

The French foreign minister is in Israel for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders aimed at ensuring the success of a peace meeting planned for Annapolis in the United States before the end of this month.

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