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Mon 4 Feb 2008 02:37 AM

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Iran slams France over nuclear row

Foreign minister says UAE, French military agreement is 'not conducive to peace' in region.

Iran accused France on Sunday of adopting an "unfriendly" position in Tehran's nuclear row with the West, and said the military base France is setting up in the Gulf would harm peace in the region.

The Foreign Ministry summoned the French ambassador to Tehran, an apparent tit-for-tat response after Paris last week called in Iran's envoy over anti-Israeli remarks made by its hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Iran expressed its objection to France's adopted negative view on Iran's nuclear work and also its backing of the Zionist regime's [Israel's] activities," the official IRNA news agency said.

A French diplomat confirmed that French ambassador Bernard Poletti had been summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, whose spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini accused France of "ignoring the Zionist regime's crimes" against Palestinians.

On Friday, the French Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's ambassador to Paris over a new verbal attack on Israel last week by Ahmadinejad, who in the past has called for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map".

France is among world powers trying to exert diplomatic pressure on Iran to halt atomic work, which they fear is aimed at making bombs. It has stepped up its rhetoric against Tehran since President Nicolas Sarkozy took office last May.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, says its nuclear programme is a peaceful drive to generate electricity.

France and Iran have commercial ties but relations took a turn for the worse after France's foreign minister in September said the world should prepare for a war with Iran.

"So far, our policies regarding France and their unfriendly stances have been restrained, but if they continue this trend we will also review our stances," Hosseini said.

He also criticised a deal that Paris signed with the UAE to build France's first permanent military installation in the Gulf, just across the water from Iran.

The base, housing 400 to 500 personnel, will keep French forces within reach of sea lanes through which over a third of global oil shipments pass.

France has also said it will hold its first joint war games with UAE and Qatar in the Gulf this month.

"We are against any kind of increase in the military presence of foreign forces in the region," Hosseini said in comments carried by Iran's Press TV.

"We believe that such a presence is not conducive to the security and peace in the region." (Reuters)

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