Chirac plays down threat from nuclear-armed Iran

1st February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 1, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac told journalists that a nuclear-armed Iran would not be "very dangerous" and that Tehran would be "razed" if it launched a strike on Israel, in remarks that he later retracted, reports said Thursday.

PARIS, Feb 1, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac told journalists that a nuclear-armed Iran would not be "very dangerous" and that Tehran would be "razed" if it launched a strike on Israel, in remarks that he later retracted, reports said Thursday.

"Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well that's not very dangerous," Chirac said in the interview to the New York Times, the Paris-based International Herald Tribune and the French weekly Nouvel Observateur.

"Where would Iran drop this bomb? On Israel?" he asked. "It would not have gone off 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground," Chirac was quoted as saying by the three publications.

The president gave the interview on Monday but called the journalists back to the Elysee Palace the following day to say that he was retracting the statement.

"It is I who was wrong and I do not want to contest it," Chirac was quoted as saying by the IHT. "I should have paid better attention to what I was saying and understood that perhaps I was on the record."

"It was an oversimplification... It is a formulation that I am taking back," the Nouvel Observateur quoted him as saying.

Paris has steadfastly opposed any attempt by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, with Chirac recently accusing Tehran of "feeding the world's apprehension" with its atomic programme.

The presidential press service said Thursday that Chirac had given "an extremely condensed and oversimplified" view of his Iran policy in the interview and that he sought to "correct" it the following day.

But an Elysee official later criticised the reports as an attempt to create a "shameful polemic on an issue where France and the president of the Republic have always been consistent and determined."

"This is not surprising from certain media across the Atlantic that do not hesitate to use any pretext against France," said the official.

France has taken a leading role with its European allies in trying to persuade Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment programme and comply with international demands for monitoring of its atomic facilities.

Tehran has defied calls to suspend enrichment work, rejecting US allegations it wants nuclear weapons and insisting its atomic drive is solely aimed at producing nuclear energy.

In the interview, Chirac also said that Iran's possession of a nuclear bomb would encourage other countries in the region to follow suit.

"It is really very tempting for other countries in the region with large financial resources to say: 'Well, we too are going to do that: we're going to help others do it'," the president said, according to the three publications.

He also retracted those remarks, saying: "Neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt has made any declaration on these subjects, so it is not up to me to make them."

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Thursday reasserted France's opposition to any attempt by Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

"We are calling, now more than ever, on Iranians to not isolate themselves and to suspend their sensitive nuclear activities," the foreign minister told journalists.

"As long as Iran refuses to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities, we will continue our approach with UN Security Council sanctions" adopted in December.

Chirac, who is coming to the end of his second term in office, last month floated a plan to send a special envoy to Iran to discuss regional issues, but not to tackle the nuclear problem.

Iran said it would be ready to receive the French envoy, but the United States has voiced disapproval, saying that it would send the wrong signal at a time when Tehran has come under UN sanctions over its nuclear activities.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Chirac, Iran, Nuclear bomb

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