AFP: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Friday called on Iran to release French student Clotilde Reiss, saying Tehran's accusation against her of spying "doesn't hold up."
BEIRUT (AFP) — French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Friday called on Iran to release French student Clotilde Reiss, saying Tehran's accusation against her of spying "doesn't hold up."
"Do you think my country would be so naive and shorthanded as to send a 23-year-old woman to spy in Iran? That's stupid, it's not possible," he told reporters during a visit to Lebanon.
"This accusation doesn't hold up," said Kouchner.
"This young woman is innocent," he said of Reiss, a French lecturer at the Isfahan Technical university in central Iran who was jailed on charges of espionage.
"The innocent must be released. The innocent must be freed."
Reiss has been detained in Iran's notorious Evin prison following her arrest on July 1 in the wake of massive opposition protests over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June.
Iranian authorities accuse her of taking part in the protests and of sending an email to a friend in Tehran that contained information on the rallies, French officials said.
Kouchner thanked Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki for having allowed France's ambassador to Iran, Bernard Poletti, to meet with Reiss on Thursday, and said Paris will do everything to seek her release.
In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had dismissed as "pure fantasy" any suggestion that Reiss had been involved in espionage and called for her release.
Kouchner on Friday held talks with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Hezbollah international relations chief Nawaf Moussawi, and others and called for the formation of a Lebanese government without any foreign intervention.
"It is up to the prime minister-designate to form a government (after consultations) within Lebanon or abroad, whatever he wants," Kouchner told reporters. "It is not for France to advise on this."
The French minister also said he was pleased with the improvement of his country's relations with Syria.
"I am not unaware that Syria continues to be important in this part of the world, and we are pleased to have established normal relations with Syria," he said.
Kouchner heads to Syria on Saturday for a two-day visit.