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Iran chides France over nuclear rights

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran on Monday urged Paris to take "a correct approach based on reality," after the French defence minister stressed the need to prevent the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.

"There is an erroneous belief held by some Western nations that if put under pressure Iran will give up its fundamental rights," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

"It would be better if the French government adopted a correct approach based on reality, instead of engaging in irrational behaviour and comments."

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday there was a need to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, and said sanctions had been imposed in an effort to push it into serious negotiations.

"The progress of Iran's programme only adds to our concerns" about the unacceptable "possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear arms," Le Drian told the Gulf Defence Conference in Abu Dhabi across the Gulf from Iran.

The French minister said it was the responsibility of countries to ensure that Iran's suspect nuclear programme "fails" in order to guarantee security for all.

Sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union "appear to me to be the way to bring Iran to negotiate seriously," Le Drian added.

Mehmanparast reiterated Tehran's position that "Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful and transparent and (Tehran) has continuously and closely cooperated with the International Atomic Energy Agency," the UN nuclear watchdog.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- will be held in the Kazakh city of Almaty on February 26 after an eight-month hiatus and failed meetings in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow.

The talks aim to address a key Western concern about Iran's capacity to enrich uranium to fissile purities of 20 percent, a process that can be used for peaceful atomic purposes as well as for making the core of a nuclear bomb.