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Chirac retracts remarks on Iranian bomb

France's president says his nation can't accept the prospect of Tehran having nuclear arms.

February 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

PARIS — French President Jacques Chirac backtracked Thursday and said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable, reversing his earlier comments that Tehran's possession of a nuclear bomb would not be "very dangerous."

"France, along with the international community, cannot accept the prospect of an Iran equipped with a nuclear weapon," Chirac's office said in a statement seeking to limit fallout from the leader's remarks to the International Herald Tribune and two other publications.

"The Iranian nuclear program is opaque and therefore dangerous for the region," the statement said. It urged Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and said that the United Nations would respond by suspending sanctions and that negotiations with Tehran would resume.

On Monday, Chirac said of Iran, "I would say that what is dangerous about this situation is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb. Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that's not very dangerous."

For Iran -- whose leader has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" -- possessing the weapon would be useless because using it would mean an instant counterattack, he said.

"Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel?" Chirac asked. "It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed."

Chirac's initial remarks, which would have marked a major departure from France's official policy of working to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, prompted sharp criticism and protest from experts and the opposition Socialist Party. His office said that foreign governments were also asking for an official clarification.

A French official said the president had been speaking in a "strategic" or hypothetical way about nuclear deterrence involving Iran, not about "diplomacy."

The official said that Chirac had spoken hastily, prompting the president to call back the reporters. He said Chirac's idea was to point out it was unthinkable that Iran could consider using a nuclear weapon.

In the second interview with the publications, Chirac retracted his comment about Tehran being razed. "I retract it, of course, when I said, 'One is going to raze Tehran,' " he said.

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