Nation claims 3,000 uranium-enriching devices installed, but diplomats are doubtful.
France has been trying to encourage the European Union to back new sanctions against Iran, outside of the UN Security Council, to pressure Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions.
“The countries that feel threatened … should prepare for defense, and even counterattack”
Adolfo Talpalar, Stockholm, Sweden
Iranian leaders have insisted Tehran only wants to use nuclear technology to produce electricity.
Following Kouchner’s remarks, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, reiterated his commitment to developing atomic energy.
Later, Reza Aghazadeh, Iran’s vice-president, told delegates from the IAEA’s 144 member states that Western countries “have always chosen the path of confrontation instead of the path of understanding and cordial relations toward the great nation of Iran”.
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.
Calling the nuclear standoff “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.
Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister, backed Kouchner’s call for sanctions on Monday, but Austria and Germany took exception to his talk of war.
|Iran has insisted that its nuclear facilities
are for producing electricity [File: EPA]
“I can’t comprehend why he is resorting to such martial rhetoric at this time,” Ursula Plassnik, Austrian foreign minister, said at the meeting of the IAEA in Vienna.
While Martin Jaeger, German foreign ministry spokesman, said: “It’s not right to talk of threats of war.”
Francois Fillon, the French prime minister, also tried to soften the aggressive language on Monday, insisting that there was still room for diplomacy.
“The Iranians must understand that tension has reached an extreme point,” he said, while adding that “a confrontation with Iran is the last option that any political leader would want”.
Dr Mehran Kamrawa from the Georgetown University in Qatar told Al Jazeera that the tough language would make any return to negotiations unlikely.
“The Iranians and the European Union plus the United States have backed themselves into a corner respectively with their very harsh rhetoric,” he said.
“The rhetoric coming from the French foreign minister only makes the situation of negotiations less likely because its creates a situation whereby the Iranians are unable to go to the negotiating table because it looks like they are surrendering to European demands.”