France draws Iranian ire over nuclear warning

23rd January 2006, Comments 0 comments

TEHRAN, Jan 22, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac came under attack in Iran Sunday after warning that France could use nuclear arms against state sponsors of terrorism, with officials in the Islamic republic branding the remark "shameful" and "unacceptable".

TEHRAN, Jan 22, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac came under attack in Iran Sunday after warning that France could use nuclear arms against state sponsors of terrorism, with officials in the Islamic republic branding the remark "shameful" and "unacceptable".

"It is shameful for the people of France that their president brandishes atomic weapons on the pretext of fighting terrorism," said Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel, speaker of Iran's right-wing parliament.

On Thursday, Chirac for the first time raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that launches "terrorist" attacks against France.

Although he did not single out any country, the warning could be interpreted as including Iran — frequently accused of sponsoring terrorism and under pressure over its disputed nuclear programme.

But Hadad-Adel said the French president was merely "trying to restore the prestige of France after the recent unrest, when young people took to the streets and torched hundreds of cars every night."

"The French need to make an effort to remove the shame of the massacre of millions of Algerians, France's support for Saddam Hussein and the massacres in Africa and Rwanda," Hadad-Adel said in a speech to deputies carried by state radio.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, in a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA, also branded Chirac's comments as "unacceptable and unjustifiable".

"These statements redouble public concern in countries of the world which face those countries in possession of nuclear weapons," Asefi was quoted as saying.

Iran is currently at loggerheads with France, with Paris at the forefront of Western efforts to prevent the Islamic republic from acquiring nuclear technology that could be diverted to making weapons of mass destruction.

France, along with Britain and Germany and backed by the United States, is now leading a push for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council.

Iran has denounced the mounting pressure, arguing it only wants to generate electricity and that this is a right for any signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

An editorial by the hardline Jomhuri Islami newspaper argued that Chirac's warning was a sign of the double standards Iran has long complained about.

It said Chirac had defied the NPT and calls for nuclear disarmament, and said France "has no right to be a member of world's nuclear club or comment on other countries".

"His remarks mean the French government would use the atomic bomb to oppress the ones who seek liberty," the paper said in a comment that could be seen as alluding to Iran's support for Palestinian militants.

"Everybody knows they label anyone who opposes their exploitative and colonial demands as terrorists, and that any country sheltering such people and supports them is named a supporter of terorists," the paper wrote.

"(Chirac) has unveiled the true face of the West," it said, asking why Iran should "still wait for negotiations" over its own nuclear programme.

Aside from Tehran, few world leaders appeared willing to comment publicly on Chirac's remarks, which modified France's long-standing nuclear doctrine to specifically warn that its atomic arsenal could be used against states behind terror attacks on France.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday cautioned against the use of nuclear arms against terrorism.

"Fighting against terrorism may be in military ways, but can also be done through consolidating dialogue between civilisations and through education," Abdullah said during a visit in Qatar.

"I do not wish to see a nuclear war in the world," he told reporters.

Abdullah also said "we do not accept that our territories be used to strike terrorists with nuclear arms."

Germany was one of the few others to go on the record, saying Friday only that it believes the French leader's comments were in line with Paris's existing nuclear policy.

Berlin did not see in Chirac's warning "any reason to believe that France's policy has changed or will change in the future," said government spokesman Thomas Steg in Berlin.

German commentators were negative, however.

"The president can't seriously believe that, by eyeing the nuclear stick, he can hide the failure of diplomacy," said the economic daily the Handelsblatt, callling Chirac's remarks "counterproductive."

The British Foreign Office declined to comment on Chirac's remarks. A spokesman told AFP that London had a wide range of options to a terrorist attack, but declined to discuss what it would do in a particular case.

Some British politicians went further, however. "We are in the middle of a referral by the (UN atomic watchdog) to the UN for sanctions," said Liberal Democrat lawmaker Colin Breed, referring to the diplomatic pressure on Tehran. "I don't think this is helpful in terms of that situation," he told the Financial Times.

London, which was the main European ally of the United States during the Iraq war, was hit by a multiple terrorist attack last July which killed 56 people including four suicide bombers.

In Spain meanwhile — which was also a key supporter of the Iraq invasion, and which saw 191 people killed in the Madrid bombings of March 2004 — there was no immediate government response to Chirac's comments.

But Spanish press commentators were less restrained.

"Whether he wanted to or not, Chirac is playing the game of the Bush administration," which would like to make it diplomatically easier to envisage nuclear action, said the daily El Pais.

The French leader's comments "do little for the fight against proliferation" of nuclear arms "at a delicate time faced with the challenge of Iran," it added.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news


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