Iran sees no bar to visit by France's Kouchner

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TEHRAN, Sep 23 (Reuters) Iran today suggested that it would welcome a visit by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner so he could clarify his comments that raised the prospect of war over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Kouchner said earlier this month that Iran's nuclear plans, which the West believes are a cover for acquiring an atomic weapon, meant France should ''prepare for the worst'' -- meaning war.

He has since sought to play down his comments and, in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, Kouchner said he was prepared to visit Tehran if invited.

''We see no obstacles for his trip. We think such visits will even help clarify the realities in Iran and the region,'' Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a weekly news conference.

Hosseini said there had been some contradictory remarks by French officials, indicating ''some extremism in their positions''. ''But these views have in the meantime been modified and France does not seem to want further tensions,'' he said.

France has taken a tougher stance against Tehran since President Nicolas Sarkozy came to power in May. It is trying to increase pressure on Iran by imposing fresh economic sanctions and is trying to convince other EU countries to force their companies to boycott the country.

Sarkozy said on Thursday he did not want a war with Iran over its nuclear programme but he repeated it would be unacceptable for Tehran to obtain an atom bomb.

Iran has condemned Kouchner's comments.

Iran denies charges it is secretly seeking nuclear weapons.

It says it wants only to master nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The United States has said it wants a diplomatic solution to the row but has not ruled out military action as an option.

France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China met on Friday to discuss a possible third round of UN sanctions against Iran for atomic work that could potentially be used to make nuclear weapons.

''Iran is determined to resolve the issue through logical ways and we will do so,'' Hosseini said.

REUTERS SG RN1743

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