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France Defends Talks With Iran on Nuclear Fuel

France's Defense Minister is defending European efforts to prod Iran to give up its nuclear fuel enrichment program, despite criticism by the Iranian government. Remarks by French Minister Michele Alliot-Marie come a day after President Bush accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism.

Speaking to French and American reporters in Paris Thursday, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said that negotiations to get Tehran to abandon the program were hampered by lack of trust on both sides.

"The Europeans don't want to concede anything in negotiations or give up something so long as the Iranians don't accept the controls that are being demanded," Ms. Alliot-Marie noted. "And the Iranians don't want to give up a nuclear enrichment program because they unsure they will get anything tangible in return."

France, Germany and Britain signed an agreement with Iran last November, in which Tehran agreed to suspend its nuclear enrichment program while talks with the Europeans continued. That agreement opened up broader talks, touching on future security and trade cooperation, among other areas.

But Tehran has yet to agree to European demands that it abandon its nuclear enrichment program altogether. Critics fear the program might be used for manufacturing nuclear weapons.

In an interview published in Britain's Financial Times newspaper on Thursday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator criticized the three European countries for not delivering incentives they promised Tehran in return for suspending the Iraninian program.

Iran argues its nuclear enrichment program is for peaceful purposes. And an Iranian spokesman Thursday rejected charges of sponsoring terrorism, made by President Bush during his state of the union speech on Wednesday.