Iran summons French envoy over Kouchner comments

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TEHRAN, Oct 3 (Reuters) Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned a senior French diplomat today to protest at ''extreme remarks'' by France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, in a deepening nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West.

Kouchner last month sparked controversy by saying the world should prepare for a war with Iran. Yesterday he said the situation in Iran was dangerous and that a nuclear-armed Iran would make the West Asian situation even more complicated.

The official IRNA news agency referred to Kouchner's war comment and also said he had accused Iran of trying to obtain a nuclear bomb in some ''unrealistic and irresponsible remarks''.

Iran rejects Western allegations it wants to develop atomic weapons and says its activities are solely seeking to generate electricity so that the world's fourth-largest oil producer can export more of its valuable oil and gas.

IRNA said the Foreign Ministry lodged today's protest after ''provocative and unrealistic comments by French political officials, especially the extreme remarks by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.'' ''France's charge d'affaires in Tehran, in the absence of that country's ambassador, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry this day morning,'' IRNA said.

''The head of the Foreign Ministry's second department for western Europe protested at recent comments by the French foreign minister,'' the report said.

Other Iranian news agencies carried similar reports. The Iranian Foreign Ministry was not available for comment.

Kouchner has said his remarks about war were taken out of context, and he has repeatedly said since then that he wants a peaceful outcome to the row and is working on a diplomatic solution.

France and five other world powers agreed on Friday to delay toughening UN sanctions against Tehran until November at the earliest to wait for reports by UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and European Union negotiator Javier Solana.

The decision to make another stab at EU-led diplomacy while brandishing the threat of fresh sanctions if it fails in convincing Iran to suspend its sensitive atom work reflected a compromise among the major powers.

France has been pushing for tougher sanctions and Kouchner said last Friday he would write to France's EU partners calling for a discussion on European sanctions on Iran at the next foreign ministers meeting on October 15.

REUTERS SKB RN1713

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