Iran summons French envoy as relations chill

4th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Iran summoned the French ambassador on Sunday in a tit-for-tat protest at a similar move by Paris over a new anti-Israeli tirade by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

   TEHRAN, Feb 4, 2008 - Iran summoned the French ambassador on Sunday
in a tit-for-tat protest at a similar move by Paris over a new anti-Israeli
tirade by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a further sign of strained
   Tensions have been mounting over France's tougher line on the controversial
Iranian nuclear drive, and Tehran has also lashed out at plans by Paris for a
military base in the Gulf.
   On Friday, the French government called in the Iranian ambassador to Paris,
Ali Ahani, to "firmly condemn" a new outburst against the Jewish state by
Ahmadinejad, who said the days of the "filthy Zionist entity" were numbered.
   Iran's state-run television confirmed that French ambassador Bernard
Poletti had been summoned by the foreign ministry in response.
   "We object to this summons," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali
Hosseini told reporters. "We will show our protest by summoning the French
   Hosseini also hit out at the government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy
for its tougher line in the long-running nuclear standoff between Iran and the
   "We have so far acted with self-restraint but if the French stance
continues along these lines, we will revise our approach to them," Hosseini
said, describing the French position as "unfriendly, irrational and
   French Defence Minister Herve Morin on Thursday cast doubt on a US report
that Tehran had halted a suspected nuclear weapons drive. OPEC member Iran
insists its atomic programme is aimed solely at generating energy.
   Since Sarkozy's election in May, France has considerably hardened its
position and has called for the UN Security Council to impose a third set of
sanctions to punish Iran for its failure to heed ultimatums to suspend uranium
   The Security Council on Monday held informal talks on a draft sanctions
resolution agreed by the five veto-wielding permanent members -- Britain,
China, France, Russia and United States -- plus Germany.
   France said on Friday that some council members were asking for more time
to consider the resolution.
   Iran, which is already under two sets of UN sanctions, insists it has a
right to uranium enrichment under the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to make
nuclear fuel to meet increasing energy needs of its population.
   The French envoy to Washington Pierre Vimont said that a "few" council
members wanted to wait for Iran to clear up questions over its nuclear
programme with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
   In addition, he said, it would take "some time" to get an agreement from
some of the council's non-permanent members on the proposed third set of
   Iran was supposed to clear up all outstanding issues related to its past
and present nuclear activities with IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei by
mid-February but reports say it has sought an extension to the end of February
or beginning of March.
   The foreign ministry spokesman also lashed out at French plans to set up a
military base in the United Arab Emirates, saying it would only cause
instability in the Gulf region.
   "We are against military expansion in the region and we think the presence
of foreign forces will not contribute to stability but on the contrary, will
be a factor of insecurity and instability," Hosseini said.
   France announced during Sarkozy's January visit to the UAE that it would
set up a military base in the capital Abu Dhabi to become operational in 2009.
   Iran has been a vocal critic of the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf
region, notably the US military, which has bases in several countries
including Iraq.
   Ahmadinejad warned in September that France's new tougher position could
hit economic relations and last week two parliamentary committees discussed
reducing economic ties, particularly in the motor industry.


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