Iran says France stoking crisis with war crisis

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TEHRAN, Sep 17 (Reuters) Iran today accused French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of stoking a crisis after he said France must prepare for the possibility of war over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini as saying Kouchner's remarks were not in line with European Union policies.

''Using crisis-making words is against France's high historical and cultural position and is against France's civilisation,'' he said in a statement.

An earlier IRNA story quoted the spokesman as using the term ''provocative words'' in his statement, but in a later update the agency changed this to ''crisis-making words''.

''It seems the French foreign minister has forgotten the EU's policies,'' Hosseini was quoted as saying. France is a leading member of the 27-nation EU.

Kouchner said in an interview yesterday that France must prepare for the possibility of war against Iran over its nuclear activities, which the West fears are aimed at making atom bombs.But he said he did not believe such action was imminent.

He also told RTL radio and LCI television that the world's major powers should use further sanctions to show they were serious about stopping Tehran getting atom bombs. The minister said France had asked French firms not to bid for work in Iran.

Several big French firms have made or are looking at making big investments in the Islamic Republic, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, including Total and Renault .

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said today that everything must be done to avoid war with Iran, but added that Kouchner was right to say the situation was dangerous and must be taken seriously.

Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed solely at generating electricity.

In a commentary today, IRNA accused France of ''extremism'', an apparent reference to Kouchner's statement.

''Since Sarkozy's occupation of the Elysee, a European has inhabited the same skin as the United States and imitates the same bellows and dirty looks,'' it said, referring to new French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

''The new French government thinks that the best approach in the international arena is to undermine peace and foster tension, the approach it has now adopted,'' IRNA said.

REUTERSAM ND2058

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