France Joins In Criticizing Iran

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Reza Aghazadeh, left, and Ahmadinejad's close advisor and cabinet secretary Masoud Zaribafan, right, visit the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006.
France accused Iran on Thursday of seeking nuclear weapons in Europe's bluntest criticism to date of Tehran's uranium enrichment plans, while Russia urged its erstwhile ally to re-impose an indefinite freeze on enrichment.

While the United States routinely accused Iran of trying to make such arms, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy's bold statement appeared to reflect mounting exasperation and a tougher stance than European negotiators had previously maintained in their efforts to persuade Iran to suspend nuclear activities.

"No civilian nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program. It is a clandestine military nuclear program," Douste-Blazy said on France-2 television.

"The international community has sent a very firm message in telling the Iranians to return to reason and suspend all nuclear activity and the enrichment and conversion of uranium, but they aren't listening to us."

In other developments:

  • Russia's top military chief on Thursday warned the United States against launching a military strike against Iran and a top diplomat voiced hope that close cooperation with China could help resolve the Tehran nuclear crisis. "It is hard to predict how the Muslim world will respond to the use of force against Iran," Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky. "This may stir the whole world, and it is crucial to prevent anything like that."
  • Cuba's parliament speaker on Thursday offered support to his visiting Iranian counterpart in an escalating international dispute over the Middle Eastern nation's use of nuclear power. "No one has the right to monopolize any source of energy fundamental for humanity," National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon said at the start of a meeting with Iranian parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday passed a resolution 404-4 (with four voting present) to condemn Iran for violating international nuclear nonproliferation obligations and expressing support for efforts to report Iran to the Security Council, reports CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Bob Fuss.

    France, Britain and Germany have been negotiating with Iran on behalf of the European Union. Europe and the United States fear that Iran is using its nuclear program to build weapons, and the U.N. Security Council will consider Iran's efforts next month.

    The council has the power to impose economic and political sanctions. Amid mounting tensions, Iran resumed small-scale uranium enrichment last week.

    "Now it's up to the Security Council to say what it will do, what means it will use to stop, to manage, to halt this terrible crisis of nuclear proliferation caused by Iran," Douste-Blazy said.

    Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani responded to those comments by saying: "We want civilian nuclear energy, we don't want to have the bomb."

    "Bringing the matter to the Security Council would be seen by Tehran as an escalation," Pakistan's UN Ambassador and former President of the UN Security Council Munir Akram said in an interview with CBS News Up to the Minute Contributor Frank Ucciardo. "The adoption of the resolution of the IAEA produced a reaction which I think has moved the whole issue in the negative direction."

    Russia, too, applied pressure.