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. Iran slams Sarkozy over missile warning
TEHRAN, March 22 (AFP) Mar 22, 2008
Iran on Saturday lashed out at President Nicolas Sarkozy for suggesting France needed a nuclear deterrent to counter the growing missile threat posed by states like the Islamic republic.

"Making such comments has no value," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said, according to the website of state television.

"The Islamic republic has been always a centre of stability and peace-seeking in the region and its foreign policy is completely in line with international criteria," he added.

Announcing a reduction in France's nuclear arsenal, Sarkozy the day before said his country still needed atomic weapons as "life-insurance" against new threats from states such as Iran.

Iran was "increasing the range of its missiles while serious suspicions weigh on its nuclear programme," said Sarkozy.

France has toughened its line against Iran since Sarkozy's election as president, with French officials repeatedly warning about the security dangers of the Iranian atomic programme.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely aimed at producing atomic energy but Western powers fear Tehran could use the sensitive process of uranium enrichment to make a nuclear bomb.

Relations between Paris and Tehran have been strained in recent months due to France's strong support of US warnings over Iranian ambitions.

The Islamic republic has also been touting its progress in ballistic missiles and its longer-range Shahab-3 missile has a range sufficient to put its arch regional foe Israel and even southern Europe within reach.

But Hosseini said it was false to conclude that Iran was a threat.

"The Islamic republic intends to upgrade its capabilities," he said.

"But drawing a parallel between these progresses and possible threats is inappropriate and invalid," Hosseini said.

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