Larijani: 'France can moderate talks'

Top negotiator suggests Sarkozy could unblock nuke crisis with West.

Ali Larijani 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ali Larijani 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
France could play the role of "honest broker" to break the impasse with the West over Iran's uranium enrichment program, Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said in a newspaper interview published Saturday. Larijani suggested that newly-elected President Nicolas Sarkozy could bring a new impetus to unblock the crisis by starting up a dialogue "without preset conditions on either side" with the West. "In this regard, the France of new President Nicolas Sarkozy could play the role of honest broker because France enjoys a very good image" in Iran, Larijani told the conservative daily Le Figaro. Larijani is scheduled to meet Thursday in Madrid with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana for a second round of talks in just over a month. Larijani noted that France served as a haven for Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini while he plotted the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi and then returned triumphant to Tehran. The Iranian official reiterated his country's contention that its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes and its denial that producing nuclear weapons is its ultimate goal, as the West suspects. "We share the same concerns. I don't want a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which would be catastrophic for all the states of the region," Larijani told Le Figaro. "The atomic bomb doesn't interest Iran." He also reiterated condemnation of the United States for its leading role in the crisis, saying it set itself up as "all powerful and omniscient, capable of (determining) good and evil." In an apparent effort to influence France and other powers working with Washington to curtail Iran's uranium enrichment program, he referred to nations "pretending to be independent (but which) follow blindly."