“The countries that feel threatened … should prepare for defense, and even counterattack”
Adolfo Talpalar, Stockholm, Sweden
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Following Kouchner’s remarks, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, reiterated his commitment to developing atomic energy.
“Of course we will not step back,” said Ahmadinejad in an interview with Jam-e Jam, Iran’s Farsi language international television channel, in response to a question by a viewer.
“The West are talking about imposing sanctions on us. But they cannot do this,” he said.
Sayed Mohammed Mirandi, a political analyst at Tehran university, told Al Jazeera: “Most doubt that there will be any military conflict because the US is in enough trouble as it is in Iraq.”
“The new French government seems to be taking the place of the former British government … acting as Bush’s poodle.”
Iran has yet to comply with repeated UN demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and other sensitive work that could potentially be used in producing weapons.
“We must negotiate right to the end [with Iran],” the French minister said, but underlined that if Tehran possessed an atomic weapon, it would represent “a real danger for the whole world”.
Calling the nuclear stand-off “the greatest crisis” of present times, Kouchner said: “We will not accept that the bomb is manufactured …” and hinted that military plans were being developed.
“We are trying to put in place plans which are the privilege of chiefs of staff and that is not for tomorrow,” he said, but stressed any attack on Iran was far from taking place.
“It is normal for us to plan” for any eventuality.
He also said leading French companies such as Total and Gaz de France had been urged not to undertake new work or contracts in Iran.
“We have decided to … prepare ourselves for possible sanctions outside the UN sanctions and which would be European sanctions.
“Our German friends proposed it. We discussed it a few days ago,” Kouchner said.
The five permanent Security Council members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – plus Germany are due to meet to discuss a new draft UN resolution on sanctions against Iran on September 21 in Washington.
|Iran has insisted that its nuclear facilities
are for producing electricity [File: EPA]
Kouchner’s comments follow a similar statement by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.
He said last month in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office that a diplomatic push by the world’s powers was the only alternative to “an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran”.
Kouchner, went to Iraq last month to raise France’s profile there and smooth over relations with Washington after disagreeing with the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq.
Sarkozy is seen as taking a tougher line on Iran than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, and is also seen as being far more friendly to the US.
The US has said it has not ruled out using military strikes against Iran and Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said on Sunday that “all options are on the table”.