Iran Nuclear NewsSarkozy wants tougher Iran sanctions

Sarkozy wants tougher Iran sanctions

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AP: Accusing Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested tougher sanctions against the Mideast nation Thursday over its refusal to suspend nuclear activities. The Associated Press

By ANGELA CHARLTON

PARIS (AP) — Accusing Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested tougher sanctions against the Mideast nation Thursday over its refusal to suspend nuclear activities.

Sarkozy, who has toughened the French position on Iran since taking office in May, called the possibility of an Iranian bomb “unacceptable.”

Sarkozy was expected to discuss sanctions with other world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly next week. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, meanwhile, was in Washington to meet with senior U.S. 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. But he insisted that France does not want to see tensions lead to war.

The United States and other world powers suspect Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists it only wants nuclear technology to produce electricity. Two rounds of U.N. sanctions have failed to end the deadlock.

“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.

“I would not have used the word ‘war,'” Sarkozy said Thursday.

“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.

French officials this week floated plans for European sanctions against Iran beyond existing U.N. measures, which the Foreign Ministry called “insufficient.”

Sarkozy’s spokesman, David Martinon, said earlier Thursday that France wants European companies to be told not to seek new markets and to reduce their investments in Iran.

Martinon said such measures were being considered because it could take time for the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions.

“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 U.S. visit since his appointment in May, said France has moved on from the 12-year term of former President Jacques Chirac, who was a prominent critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Chirac also pushed for dialogue with Iran.

Associated Press writer John Leicester contributed to this report.

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