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France Demands Iranian "Action" on Atomic Dispute

France on Wednesday pressed Iran to pursue a substantive effort to halt its uranium enrichment activities, the Xinhua News Agency reported (see GSN, Oct. 5).

France, the United States and other Western powers suspect Iran's enrichment program is intended to generate nuclear-weapon material; Tehran has insisted the effort would exclusively produce fuel for civilian applications.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in recent weeks has repeatedly said his country could end manufacturing of 20 percent-enriched uranium if other countries supply Tehran with the same substance. Iran has said the higher-enriched material is intended to fuel a medical research reactor, but it also enables the nation to potentially more quickly produce nuclear-weapon material, which must be refined to roughly 90 percent.

"Beyond the statements, what we want is action," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said on Wednesday in remarks reported by radio network Europe 1.

"So far, it is clear that Iran has not responded to numerous opportunities of cooperation and dialogue ... and has not showed its willingness to engage in serious discussion about the content and purpose of its nuclear program," Valero said (Xinhua News Agency, Oct. 6).

Meanwhile, a representative for Israel's prime minister minimized the significance of speculation that the nation is mulling a military attack on Iran, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Wednesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lately stressed the importance of increasing Iran's economic isolation, the official noted.

One expert, though, said recent remarks by former Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan suggest Jerusalem was seriously weighing potential military action.

"A successful strike (against Iran) would make Israel a real hero in the region," said Efraim Inbar, who heads Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. "Despite all the hypocrisy in the debate on a pre-emptive strike, many people in private are praying for some kind of action."

Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, though, said Netanyahu exaggerated the threat posed by Iran in framing the nation as a possible global scourge.

"When you compare the balance of power, in virtually every field Israel is superior, starting with the fact that Israel has had nuclear weapons for nearly half a century and Iran, despite its claims, is not even close to developing them," Riedel said.

Netanyahu and Israel's foreign minister are apparently still weighing possible courses of action on Iran, said Moshe Ma'oz, an emeritus professor with Hebrew University's Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department (Ruth Pollard, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 6).

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