/ 17 September 2007

War with Iran must be avoided, says French PM

Everything must be done to avoid the prospect of war with Iran, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Monday, a day after his foreign minister said the country should prepare for that possibility.

The United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China have backed two rounds of United Nations sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and other sensitive work that could potentially be used to make weapons.

France has repeatedly called for more sanctions. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner increased pressure on Tehran on Sunday, saying that France had to prepare for the prospect of war with Iran, though that was not an immediate danger.

”Everything must be done to avoid war,” Fillon told reporters on a visit to the western town of Angouleme.

”France’s role is to lead towards a peaceful solution to a situation that would be extremely dangerous for the rest of the world,” he said. He added that Kouchner was right to say the situation was dangerous and should be taken seriously.

Iran denies charges that it is secretly seeking nuclear weapons. It says it only wants to master atomic technology to generate electricity.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy raised the prospect of war last month when he said a diplomatic push by the world’s major powers was the only alternative to ”the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran”, which he said would be ”catastrophic”.

France has also said the European Union should consider imposing its own sanctions against Tehran, outside the UN framework, and Kouchner said Paris had asked companies, including oil giant Total, not to bid in Iranian tenders.

”A confrontation with Iran is the last extreme that any political leader can hope for,” Fillon said.

”We are in a situation of very great tension,” he added. — Reuters