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France accuses Iran of making nuclear arms
Updated: 2006-02-17 08:14

Iran's chief negotiator, Ali Larijani, lashed back.

"I recommend that Mr. Douste-Blazy speak in diplomatic terms and avoid increasing tension," Iranian state-run television quoted him as saying. "The motivation of the French foreign minister behind his new comments is ambiguous to us. But it is in the interests of the region that the West adopts a logical stance toward Iran's nuclear activities."

Georges Le Guelte, a nuclear expert at France's Institute for International and Strategic Research, called Douste-Blazy's statement "remarkable."

"It was not very diplomatic," he said, adding it sent a powerful message to French companies operating in Iran that have pressured the government to remain cautious.

Richard Whitman of the Chatham House think tank in London said Douste-Blazy's comments reflect "a sense of exasperation with the Iranian government."

"All of the doors that were open in terms of negotiations ... are gradually being closed by the Iranians," he said.

So far, the United States, Europe and Russia have stuck together in an effort to pressure Iran.

A senior U.S. State Department official visiting Turkey on Thursday cautioned that Iran's leadership will try to divide the international community. The official, who requested anonymity because his meetings with Turkish officials were ongoing, said for diplomacy to work, countries must quickly send a unified message that Iran is isolated, losing international trust and harming itself.

The next big test comes next week at talks in Moscow on moving Iran's enrichment program to Russia. The proposal is meant to allay fears that Tehran might use the technology to make nuclear arms. Tensions over Iran are likely to diminish if Tehran agrees to the Russian proposal — and balloon if it does not.

Meanwhile, Russia's military chief Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky warned the United States against launching a military strike against Iran, saying "it is hard to predict how the Muslim world will respond."

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