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French Minister's Comments On Iran Get Mixed Reaction


The international community is offering a mixed reaction to French proposals that the European Union should impose its own economic sanctions on Iran, if it continues to pursue its nuclear program - and to prepare for war, if diplomacy fails. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

The Netherlands backed remarks by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for the European Union to impose its own sanctions against Tehran if it continued to pursue its nuclear agenda. But speaking alongside Kouchner at a press conference in Paris, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said the best option is to reinforce existing sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council.

Kouchner stirred waves Sunday, not only with his EU sanctions proposal, but also by suggesting the international community should brace for war against Iran as a last resort.

In remarks broadcast on France's RTL radio, Kouchner said that the world should prepare itself for the worst, when it came to dealing with Iran. When asked what that was, he replied: "It is war." But he also called for negotiations until the end.

Western governments are trying to prod Iran to abandon its nuclear program or face tougher U.N. sanctions. Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran's state-owned IRNA news agency accused France of pandering to the United States by adopting a tougher tone. Mohamed El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said options other than the use of force are far from being exhausted. And France's RFI radio reports that Austria's foreign minister also criticized Kouchner's comments.

On Friday, the six nations involved with the Iran nuclear issue - Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany, and the United States - are expected to discuss in Washington the possibility of new U.N. sanctions against Tehran. Meanwhile in France, the head of the Socialist Party has called for a debate on Iran in the French parliament.

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