French Foreign Minister denies academic in Iran a spy

"Would we be crazy enough to send a young girl (to Iran) as a spy?" says Kouchner.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Tuesday denied accusations that a young French academic on trial in Iran was in the country as a spy. Kouchner told Europe-1 radio that he hopes Clotilde Reiss, who is one of more than 100 people on trial in Iran on charges linked to postelection protests, will be allowed to leave the country, though he acknowledged it could be a matter of "several days to several weeks." Kouchner categorically refuted allegations by Iran's ambassador to France - published in Tuesday's Le Parisien daily - that Reiss was in Iran in order to gather information about its contested nuclear program. The ambassador, Ali Ahani, was quoted as saying Reiss' decision to live in the historic city of Ispahan - where Iran's nuclear program is based - was suspicious, as was her choice to work at a technical university although she specialized in social sciences. "What he says is false," Kouchner said. "Would we be crazy enough to send a young girl (to Iran) as a spy?" He added that in any case, Reiss did not stand accused of espionage, but faces charges stemming from her participation in postelection demonstrations. During her trial, Reiss, who was arrested July 1, apologized to the court for attending the demonstration, but said she did so because she was curious. The 24-year-old was freed on bail on Aug. 16 after a month-and-a-half in an Iranian prison, and must now stay in the French Embassy until the verdict in her case. The office of French president Nicolas Sarkozy has said it requested all charges to be dropped against Reiss so that she can return home. "Clotilde Reiss, I hope, will be freed because she is innocent," Kouchner told Europe-1.