Tue, Sep 18, 2007 - Page 1 News List

French warning of possible war with Iran sparks alarm


A warning from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that the world has to prepare for a possible war with Iran over its nuclear program yesterday triggered alarm in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Iran's official media launched a scathing response to the remarks, made in a broadcast interview on Sunday evening, and accused Paris of pandering to the US.

"The new occupants of the Elysee [presidential palace] want to copy the White House," the state-owned IRNA news agency said in an editorial.

Accusing French President Nicolas Sarkozy of taking on "an American skin," it said that "the French people will never forget the era when a non-European moved into the Elysee."

Kouchner, a former international charity chief and Socialist health minister, said that the world should negotiate with Iran "right to the end" over its nuclear program.

But, Kouchner warned, "We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war."

He said that if Tehran possessed an atomic weapon, it would be a "real danger for the whole world."

He added that the current stand-off was "the greatest crisis" of present times.

The minister spoke ahead of a visit to Moscow yesterday where Iran's nuclear ambitions was to be the main subject of discussion.

Kouchner said that if the UN were unable to agree on a new round of sanctions, then the EU had to prepare its own.

"We have decided that while negotiations are continuing ... to prepare eventual sanctions outside the ambit of UN sanctions. Our good friends, the Germans, suggested that," he said.

Kouchner said that leading French companies such as Total and Gaz de France have been urged not to sign new contracts with Iran.

Tehran, which denies seeking to build an atomic weapon, was contemptuous of France's stance.

"The occupants of the Elysee have become the executors of the will of the White House and have adopted a tone that is even harder, even more inflammatory and more illogical than that of Washington," IRNA said.

Israel welcomed Kouchner's comments, with foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev saying that sent a "clear message to Tehran."

"Iran will not abandon its program of nuclear armament until it has understood that the international community is serious, united and determined in its opposition," he said.


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