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    France Steps Up Pressure on Iran's Nuclear Activities

    Lisa Bryant

    France has for the first time explicitly accused Iran of using its nuclear program for clandestine military nuclear activity. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy accused Tehran Thursday of harboring a secret military nuclear program. The foreign minister's remarks are ratcheting up the tension between the West and Iran over its nuclear activities.

    Made during an interview on French radio Thursday, the foreign minister's remarks amounted to the clearest claim by a high-ranking European official that Iran's nuclear activities had a military goal. Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy said that no civilian nuclear program can explain Iran's nuclear activities. Therefore, he said, it must be a clandestine military nuclear program.

    Iran has insisted that its nuclear activities are for peaceful, civilian purposes. And in an interview from Tehran with France-Inter radio Thursday, Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani repeated that claim.

    Larijani said he was surprised at Douste-Blazy's declarations. He said the French minister's conception of Iran's nuclear activities did not figure into either the language or the thinking of the Iranian government. He dismissed what he called untruthful propaganda that Iran wanted to develop a nuclear bomb.

    The French minister's accusations are bound to deepen the standoff between Tehran on the one side, and the European Union and the United States on the other, over Iran's nuclear program. The EU and the U.S. spent months trying to persuade Tehran to agree to give up its nuclear activities. With diplomatic talks apparently going nowhere, members of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna voted earlier this month to take the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

    On Tuesday, Iran announced it had resumed nuclear enrichment efforts. It said it would no longer comply with voluntary measures allowing international inspectors access to its nuclear facilities. It argues that as a signatory of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, it should be allowed to enrich uranium for nuclear energy reactors. The treaty allows countries to pursue peaceful nuclear development.

     

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