AFP: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday that France will back international sanctions against Iran if the Islamic republic does not halt its programme of uranium enrichment. JERUSALEM (AFP) French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday that France will back international sanctions against Iran if the Islamic republic does not halt its programme of uranium enrichment.
“We are united (within the international community) for sanctions on Iran, but we support the start of discussions,” Kouchner told reporters after talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
“Yes to sanctions but we must engage in a dialogue with Iran, which is a great country with a great culture.”
Israel and Western nations led by the United States accuse Iran of seeking to develop the atomic bomb, a charge which Tehran rejects, insisting that its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful and aimed at meeting energy needs.
The UN Security Council has already slapped two rounds of sanctions on Iran, and the United States and European countries are keen for a third set in the face of Tehran’s continued defiance.
A final decision is likely to hinge on a new report by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei, scheduled for later this month.
Kouchner held talks on Saturday with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank town of Ramallah before meeting separately on Sunday with Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak as part of a regional tour.
On Sunday he again urged Israel to lift a punitive blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider the capital of their future state.
Kouchner also told reporters he had discussed with Peres a housing development project for Palestinians in the West Bank as well as a water purification scheme for the impoverished Gaza Strip.
“Everything that strengthens misery strengthens extremism,” Kouchner said.
Israel has kept Gaza under effective lockdown since last June following the territory’s takeover by the Islamist movement Hamas in a bid to pressure militants to halt rocket attacks on southern Israel.
On Sunday, Kouchner suggested that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could improve the situation.
“It’s not for us to say if Israel has to negotiate with Hamas or not. An understanding could be reached,” he told reporters.
Referring to last week’s killing of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh in a Damascus car bombing, Kouchner said: “Assassinations are not a good way to resolve conflicts.”
The Lebanese militia has blamed Israel for the assassination, and its leader Hassan Nasrallah has since declared “open war” on the Jewish state.
Israel has welcomed the killing of Mughnieh — who is believed to have engineered a series of deadly anti-Jewish and anti-Western attacks in the 1980s and 1990s — but denied any involvement in the assassination.