President Jacques Chirac of France on Monday issued a stark ultimatum to Iran, warning that it would face censure by the UN Security Council if it did not reinstate a freeze on sensitive nuclear activities under an accord reached in Paris in November.
In his annual speech to France's ambassadors at the Elysee Palace, Chirac made clear that he was losing patience with Iran, even as he urged its leaders to accept an offer of incentives by France, Britain and Germany in exchange for an indefinite freeze of its uranium conversion and enrichment activities.
"Today I call on the Iranian authorities to choose the path of cooperation and confidence by carefully examining this offer and resuming their commitment to suspend activities related to the production of fissile materials," Chirac said. He added: "There is room for dialogue and negotiation. We call on Iran's spirit of responsibility to restore cooperation and confidence, failing which the Security Council will have no choice but to take up the issue."
France's new foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, has also given Iran sharp warnings, but this is the first time Chirac has clearly stated that Iran would face censure or even sanctions if it did not reinstate its freeze on its nuclear activities.
In taking such a tough line, Chirac sends a clear signal to Iran's newly elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the country's new nuclear team that France has moved closer to the position of the US, which has long held that Iran's case belongs in the Security Council.
The issue became more urgent after Iran's resumption of uranium conversion at its plant in Isfahan in August and the breakdown of its talks with the three European countries, under the auspices of the EU. Iran also rejected the European offer for a range of economic, political, security and technological incentives in exchange for permanently freezing its programs to produce enriched uranium, which can be used for either peaceful nuclear energy or in weapons programs.
Iran has declared, correctly, that its nuclear activities are allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and it says it intends only peaceful use of nuclear energy. But Chirac has long made clear in conversations with world leaders, including President Bush, that he believes that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons.
"The use of civilian nuclear energy, which is perfectly legitimate, must not serve as a pretext for pursuing activities that could actually be aimed at building up a military nuclear arsenal," Chirac said on Monday.
In other remarks, Chirac said France would live up to its commitments to Turkey regarding its right to start negotiations in October for EU membership. Early this month, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said that Turkey must formally recognize Cyprus before talks can begin, a statement that brought a firestorm of criticism from the EU's executive body.