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. French FM hopes Iran halts enrichment
TEHRAN, April 12 (AFP) Apr 12, 2009
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in remarks published on Sunday that he hoped Iran would abide by international calls to halt its controversial uranium enrichment programme.

"There is always hope that Iran will agree (to halt enrichment)," Kouchner was quoted as saying in an interview with the moderate Etemad newspaper that was conducted in Paris.

Uranium enrichment is the main sticking point in the long-running standoff between Iran and the international community as the process can be used to make nuclear fuel for power plants and the core of an atomic bomb.

Kouchner pointed to questions raised by the UN Security Council and the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, about Iran's nuclear activities including enrichment.

"Why don't our Iranian friends answer these questions... The agency wants them to answer in order to remove suspicions," Kouchner said. This is the first step toward peace."

Kouchner, whose country is one of the so-called 5+1 world powers, the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, said the group still believed in holding negotiations with Tehran.

"We favour dialogue and will continue it," he said.

The six world powers last week offered to hold direct negotiations with Iran in the latest bid by the international community to persuade Tehran to halt enrichment.

"I believe it is very important (for Iran) to answer some of the agency's (IAEA's) technical and certain other questions, and also to suspend the current programme which does not seem to have a non-military purpose."

Kouchner also said he would visit Iran "at an appropriate time but under a few conditions."

Tehran denies it is trying to build atomic weapons, insisting it nuclear programme is for peaceful electricity generating purposes.

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