PARIS (AP) – French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Thursday that Iran’s nuclear program is a cover for clandestine military activity, in an unusually direct attack on Tehran for a European diplomat.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator immediately dismissed the charge, insisting that Iran did not “want to have the bomb.”
Douste-Blazy’s comments were likely to increase pressure on Iran amid the international dispute over its nuclear activities, which Tehran says are purely civilian but which European and U.S. leaders fear are aimed at building nuclear weapons.
“No civilian nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program. It is a clandestine military nuclear program,” Douste-Blazy said on France-2 television. “The international community has sent a very firm message in telling the Iranians to return to reason and suspend all nuclear activity and the enrichment and conversion of uranium, but they aren’t listening to us.”
The U.N. Security Council is to consider Iran’s nuclear activities next month. France, Britain and Germany have led European negotiations that have failed to persuade Iran to suspend parts of its nuclear program. Amid mounting tensions, Iran resumed small-scale uranium enrichment last week.
“Now it’s up to the Security Council to say what it will do, what means it will use to stop, to manage, to halt this terrible crisis of nuclear proliferation caused by Iran,” Douste-Blazy said.
In response to Douste-Blazy’s comments, Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani said Thursday: “We want civil nuclear energy, we don’t want to have the bomb.”
Speaking from Tehran on France-Inter radio, he said, “Concerning nuclear arms, we are a responsible country…. The propaganda suggests that we want the bomb, but this is not the truth.”
“We want to be in this camp” of countries that have nuclear energy technology, but no nuclear weapons, such as Brazil and Japan, he said.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that the United States would “walk a fine line” in seeking punitive international sanctions against Iran’s Islamic government over its disputed nuclear program.
Rice detailed a two-track approach to Iran, concerted international pressure to deter the Iranians from building a bomb, and a newly robust attempt to seed democratic change inside the country with aid for broadcasts and aid to dissidents.