Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Iran directly of seeking nuclear weapons and suggested tougher sanctions against Tehran, but insisted that France does not want to see tensions lead to war.
Sarkozy called the possibility of an Iranian bomb “unacceptable.” France has been toughening its position on Iran since Sarkozy took over from Jacques Chirac in May, moving closer to the US position.
Sanctions to be discussed at the UN meet
Sarkozy was expected to discuss sanctions with other world leaders at the UN General Assembly next week. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, meanwhile, was in Washington to meet with senior US officials and to discuss Iran, among other joint concerns.
If current sanctions are not sufficient, Sarkozy said, “I want stronger sanctions,” he said in a televised interview. The US and other world powers suspect Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists it only wants nuclear technology to produce electricity. Two rounds of UN sanctions have failed to end the deadlock.
“France does not want war”
“It’s a very difficult matter, but France does not want war,” Sarkozy said. He said negotiations with Iran were still possible. Sarkozy, known for his frank manner, dispensed with diplomatic niceties when referring to Iran’s nuclear activities.
“Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb. I say to the French, ’It’s unacceptable,”’ Sarkozy said. “How can we convince the Iranians to renounce this project as the international community has convinced North Korea and Libya? Through discussion, dialogue, sanctions,” he said.
Sarkozy stepped back slightly from comments by Kouchner on Sunday that the world should “prepare for the worst” in Iran, specifically “war.” Amid criticism, Kouchner later softened that, insisting he just wanted to underline the gravity of the Iranian nuclear problem.
Going beyond existing UN measures
French officials this week floated plans for European sanctions against Iran beyond existing UN measures, which the Foreign Ministry called “insufficient.”
France wants European companies to be told not to seek new markets and to reduce their investments in Iran. Such measures were being considered because it could take time for the UN Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions, Martinon said.
“They are recommendations which we hope each European Union state would address to their companies, which are present or which envisage having a presence in Iran,” he said at a news briefing.
Under the proposal, European companies would be asked to “at least not pitch for new markets in Iran,” and financial institutions recommended to reduce their investments there, he said.
Kouchner, just before leaving on his first official US visit since his appointment in May, said France has moved on from the 12-year term of Chirac, who was a prominent critic of the US-led war in Iraq. Chirac also pushed for dialogue with Iran.