THE MINISTER - Let me say first how pleased I am to be in Iran today.
Following my visits to Jordan and Turkey, I've had intensive and very constructive talks with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and am very pleased shortly to be having meetings with President Khatami and the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, the former Iranian President, Mr Rafsanjani.
Iran is a leading country in this region on account of her history, geographical position, population size and civilization. So it's especially useful for us to be able to develop our consultations at a key time, at a critical moment when the international community has to take up some important challenges.
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Now a word about the bilateral issues between our two countries.
On the question of non-proliferation. As you know, France pays particular attention to this issue. It's a critical element in international stability. We welcomed President Khatami's statements. It's important to continue, to move forward on the path to international legality, towards compliance with the principal rules governing proliferation. And in this respect we think there's a need to pursue the establishment of confidence-building measures and particularly to sign the additional protocol to the International Atomic Energy Agency's safeguard agreements, as Mr ElBaradei proposed during his recent visit. These are important for ensuring the stability of the international order and confidence between peoples on the international stage.
Likewise we discussed human rights. We expressed satisfaction at the progress that has been made. And we hope it continues. Here too, as you know, the European Union and France attach special importance to these issues. And it's important for us to go on moving forward in the framework of the dialogue we have initiated between our two countries and between the European Union and Iran.
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Q. - In the conversation between Presidents Chirac and Bush, the emphasis was on the need for the UN to take prompt action in Iraq, but no mention was made of that organization's principal role. I'd like to know the French position on this.
THE MINISTER - As regards France's position vis-Ã -vis the United Nations, I believe we share the feeling of the whole international community, that we must move quickly on the reconstruction in Iraq with due regard, of course, for international legality. France is talking about the central role; as you know, the Americans and British are talking about a vital role. I believe we all agree on the need for the United Nations, at every stage, to do all it can, to make its full contribution and, obviously, the stronger the legitimacy of the international action, the more effective it will be. We think it's necessary to be pragmatic in our determination to deal with each of the problems and this is why we are making headway on all the issues which the international community is having to deal with today - I'm thinking of disarmament, sanctions, the constitution of a legitimate authority in Iraq. So we're ready to make proposals in the Security Council framework in order very quickly to find solutions to the difficulties on the ground in Iraq. Our first concern is to satisfy the wishes of the Iraqi people, their urgent needs at the humanitarian level and with regard to Iraq's economic, political, social and administrative reconstruction. Obviously, the goal for us all is to maintain Iraq's unity and ensure respect for her [territorial] integrity and sovereignty.
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