The talks in Moscow between Kouchner and Sergei Lavrov, Russia's acting foreign minister since the government's dismissal last week, are also expected to address the international dispute over the future status of Serbia's predominantly Albanian province of Kosovo, and relations between France and Russia.
Amid mounting frustration over Iran's refusal to halt its nuclear program, the French foreign minister provoked the ire of the Islamic Republic in a hawkish interview broadcast on French TV and radio on Sunday, saying that if Tehran develops an atom bomb, "we must prepare ourselves for the worst," and clarifying: "the worst means war."
After several strong-worded statements from Iranian officials, who accused France of aping the anti-Iranian stance of Washington and stirring up a crisis situation, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon moved to downplay Kouchner's comments, saying France must do everything to avoid war.
Russia, which along with France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, has consistently taken a softer stance than other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council on Iran's nuclear program, which many countries believe is aimed at building atomic weapons. Russia's Atomstroyexport has almost finished building Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr.
However, Russia has joined France in backing two rounds of sanctions against Iran, which refuses to halt uranium enrichment. Since Nicolas Sarkozy replaced Jacques Chirac as French president in May, Paris has taken tougher line on the Islamic Republic.
On the issue of Kosovo, Lavrov and Kouchner take directly opposing positions. In July, the French foreign minister told Serbs they must back Kosovo's independence if they want to join the European Union. However Moscow, a staunch ally of Belgrade, believes that granting Kosovo sovereignty would violate Serbia's territorial integrity and set a precedent for other breakaway regions, including those of the former Soviet Union.