Iran, France hold nuclear talks

Iranian President Muhammad Khatami has met French President Jacques Chirac for talks on Iran's nuclear programme and the situation in Lebanon.

    The Iranian president met his French counterpart on Tuesday

    On the nuclear issue, Khatami said on Tuesday he was "certain that today we are closer to a solution than we were a while back."

     

    "We have taken some positive steps," he said, expressing hope for "even more significant progress" at further talks at the end of this month.

     

    He said Iran had proposed an overall plan to resolve the nuclear issue, and the European reaction, particularly that of France, has been very open.

     

    France, Germany and Britain are trying to negotiate a permanent suspension of Tehran's efforts to enrich uranium, which can be used both as fuel for energy or in nuclear

    weapons.

    In a later press conference, Khatami also expressed his hopes for a 

    "free, democratic and independent" Lebanon.

    The prime minister also said, "Iran and France are in agreement to make every effort to preserve peace and stability in Lebanon".

    "What we are looking for is a Lebanon that is free, democratic and independent," Khatami said.

    When asked about the Islamist movement Hizb Allah, which is widely considered to be backed by Damascus and Tehran, Khatami said Iran had no power over the group.

    "Hizb Allah is a real power in Lebanon." Khatami said. "This party symbolises the resistance against foreign aggression. Hizb Allah is independent, it isn't influenced by anybody and not by Iran." 

    Hizb Allah role

    A spokesman for Chirac, Jerome Bonnafont, said the French president had "emphasised the importance of dialogue between the parties in Lebanon and expressed the wish that Hizb Allah finds its place as a major political party in Lebanese democracy". 

    "This party symbolises the resistance against foreign aggression. Hizb Allah is independent, it isn't influenced by anybody and not by Iran"

    Mohammad Khatami
    Iranian president

    In the face of a UN Security Council resolution passed last September, Syria has vowed to withdraw all of its troops from Lebanon ahead of parliamentary elections in May, ending a nearly three-decade military presence.
      
    Shia Iran retains considerable influence among its co-religionists in Lebanon and joined Syria in backing Hizb Allah in its armed struggle against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon until 2000.

    The two Middle East allies have faced mounting US pressure in recent months - Iran particularly over its nuclear programme, and Syria over its domination of Lebanese affairs and its alleged sheltering of Iraq fugitives.

    Seperate meetings

    Chirac also met his Algerian counterpart Abd al-Aziz Butaflika over the situation in Lebanon and the future French-Algerian friendship treaty.

    "The discussions involved bilateral issues, issues between France and Africa, especially between France and the Arabic world ... We talked about the situation in Lebanon, we are for the independence of Lebanon and we are for the application of the international resolutions," Butaflika said after talks with Chirac.

    The Algerian prime minister also met Khatami on the fringe of an international conference on dialogue between civilizations at the Unesco headquarters in Paris.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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