Tuesday, October 27, 2009

France Seeks Answers from Iran on Nuclear Program

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The Associated Press

France said Tuesday it is increasingly exasperated with Iran's strategy in international negotiations on its nuclear program, and pressed for a quick answer as to whether Tehran will accept a U.N. proposal aimed at defusing tension. France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Iran must make haste in its negotiations with the group of international powers — including the United States, Russia and France. "It cannot take forever. We wait for answers," he said. The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who is also negotiating with the Iranians, said he hoped to have an answer to the latest U.N.-drafted nuclear plan aimed at easing tensions with the West by the end of the week. The U.N. plan envisages Tehran sending out most of uranium abroad for enrichment, which would reduce its stockpile and limit any nuclear arms making capability. Iran insists fears it is seeking a nuclear weapon are unfounded, and that it needs nuclear energy for civilian purposes. Iran has hinted it could agree to ship some low-enriched uranium abroad for processing as reactor fuel, but the step might not be enough to defuse the tensions.

"We have been waiting for almost three year for the light at the end of the tunnel. And we still wait," said Kouchner ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers. On Tuesday, Iran's state television reported that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would continue its disputed nuclear program. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also left open the possibility Iran may snub the U.N. proposal and instead seek to buy the nuclear fuel it needs for a research reactor that makes medical isotopes. "Mr. Mottaki makes statements, and makes them again. They rarely raise enthusiasm. They are rarely very positive," said Kouchner. The French minister also criticized Iran's overall strategy, which has dragged out international negotiations and has left the Western nations all too often off balance. Kouchner said it was no different this week. "I think they are losing time because it is now we have to talk," Kouchner said when asked whether the delay could be a ploy by Tehran to win time. "One day it will be too late."