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France Kouchner talks differences on Iran sanctions with U.S. lawmakers

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told U.S. lawmakers Thursday that France opposes congressional legislation under consideration that could affect European companies doing business in Iran.

With Paris taking a tougher stance against Tehran's nuclear program, Iran is expected to be the top subject of Kouchner's meetings with administration officials and lawmakers during his two day visit to Washington.

The United States is making a renewed push to tighten sanctions and Kouchner's boss, President Nicolas Sarkozy, has staked out a much tougher position on Iran than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, since he took office.

Kouchner warned last weekend that the world should be prepared for war should Iran obtain nuclear weapons. He later backtracked a bit, saying: "Everything must be done to avoid war."

At a news conference President George W. Bush was asked about Kouchner's statement and said: "I have consistently stated I am hopeful we can convince the Iranian regime to give up" any nuclear ambitions it has."

France also has been pushing recently for EU sanctions against Iran that would target the credit, insurance and financial sectors.

After a meeting with members of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee, Kouchner said the discussion was friendly and wide ranging, but that he had expressed France's disagreement with legislation the House passed earlier this year.

The bill's prospects are uncertain, but if it passes the Senate and is signed by the president, it would expand existing sanctions on Iran to include business in that nation's liquefied natural gas and petrochemical industries. It would make export credit agencies, insurers and other financial institutions subject to sanctions for investment in Iran's energy industry.

"We disagreed on a certain amount on the sanctions and for their to be sanctions against companies," Kouchner said in French.

After meeting with the House lawmakers, Kouchner also visited with Senate Foreign Relations Committee.