TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian media lashed out at France on Monday for raising the rhetoric in the standoff over Tehran's nuclear program, a day after the French foreign minister said the world should be prepared for war if Iran obtains nuclear weapons.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his administration have taken a tougher line against Iran's controversial nuclear program than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who left the Elysee presidential palace in May.
"The occupants of the Elysee have become translators of the White House policies in Europe and have adopted a tone that is even harder, even more inflammatory and more illogical than that of Washington," Iran's state-run IRNA news agency wrote in an editorial Monday posted on its Web site.
The U.S. and many of its allies, including France, have been pressuring Iran to suspend its controversial nuclear program, which they believe is cover for weapons development — a charge Iran denies. President Bush has refused to take military action off the table if Iran does not comply.
On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that war could break out if Iran obtains nuclear weapons and said European leaders were considering their own economic sanctions against the Islamic country.
Kouchner, speaking on RTL radio, said that if "such a bomb is made ... we must prepare ourselves for the worst," specifying that could mean a war.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon sought to play down Kouchner's comments on Monday, saying "everything must be done to avoid war."
"France's role is to lead the way to a peaceful solution," he said.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema also attempted to shift attention from Kouchner's remark, saying on the sidelines of a peace conference in Turin that "before talking about war, we have to give political and diplomatic initiatives necessary time."
IRNA also accused the French government of trying to derail a recent agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to answer outstanding questions about Tehran's nuclear activities.
"While the issue of Iran's nuclear case is close to being resolved, thanks to the measures taken by Iran and the IAEA, the extremism of the French leaders is creating an obstacle in this path," the editorial said.
The U.S. and its Western allies suspect that Iran is using the pact to deflect attention from its continued defiance of a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment, a pathway to nuclear arms as well as civilian reactor fuel.