Iran has criticized France for pushing for European Union sanctions against Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a letter to his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, that the imposition of what he called "unilateral" sanctions is illegal and in violation of the United Nations charter.

Mottaki said France's efforts are part of a "defeated" policy.

He said Iran is a responsible country but does not give up its rights. He said sanctions and difficulties have only helped Iran toward achieving independence, self-sufficiency and technological improvements.

Kouchner last month drew protests from Tehran after saying the world should prepare for a possible war with Iran over the nuclear issue.

Tuesday in Rome, new Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and his predecessor, Ali Larijani, are to meet EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to discuss Iran's nuclear program. Larijani resigned as nuclear negotiator Saturday.

In an interview published Monday in the French newspaper Le Monde, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran would need between three and eight years to develop an atomic bomb. Mohamed ElBaradei said Tehran poses no immediate danger.

The U.N. Security Council has already imposed two sets of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities.

The United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of secretly trying to build a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.