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French minister says war is possible over Iran nukes

world Updated: Sep 18, 2007 02:50 IST
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Iranian authorities reacted angrily on Monday to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's warning that the world should prepare for a war over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, accused France of echoing the policies of the United States and of undermining the positions of the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"The fact that the statements of French authorities correspond to the position of the dominating power (the US) damages the credibility of France in global public opinion," Hosseini said.

He went on to charge that Kouchner's statements "not only did not conform to the general policies of the European Union in regard to Iran, but also put in doubt the competence of the IAEA."

Interviewed on the French television station LCI late Sunday, Kouchner said, "We must prepare for the worst." Asked what the worst was, he replied, "It is war."

Kouchner said there was "no greater crisis today" than that over Tehran's developing nuclear programme.

"We will not accept that this (nuclear) bomb will be built," he declared, for this would represent "a real danger for the entire world."

Iran has steadfastly declared that its nuclear programme is intended exclusively for the production of energy, and not arms.

Kouchner also called on the EU to impose economic sanctions on Tehran outside of those imposed by the United Nations.

Kouchner's warning on Iran followed the line taken by President Nicolas Sarkozy in an Aug 27 speech in which he warned that the Iranian nuclear crisis presented the world with "a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

The Iranian government news agency IRNA accused Sarkozy and Kouchner of "extremism" and charged that the French president wanted "to copy the White House."

For his part, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday urged countries to refrain from talking about an escalation of the Iran nuclear crisis.

Speaking at the annual General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, ElBaradei said there was no "clear and present danger" from Iran.

German authorities appeared to give the French cautious backing on their stance toward Iran.

The French government was correct in its assessment that "there are all the elements of a very serious obligation on the international community and that we must do everything possible to ensure that Iran does not become nuclear armed," government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said in Berlin.