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France

Sarkozy tells Iran to join nuclear talks or face further isolation

Video by Catherine VIETTE , Karim YAHIAOUI

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-04

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned Iran that it will face deeper isolation if it does not agree soon to talks with world powers over its nuclear programme. Iran has so far rejected invitations to such talks.

REUTERS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Iran on Wednesday it faced deeper international isolation if it did not agree soon to talks with the world’s biggest powers on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

 

 

Sarkozy agreed to a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Wednesday at which French officials said Mottaki would deliver a message from the “highest Iranian authorities” on the highly disputed nuclear programme.

 

But before Mottaki had left the building, Sarkozy’s office issued a statement suggesting no breakthrough was made and urging Iran to seize the chance for talks with the powers—France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China.

 

“He (Sarkozy) underlined the importance and seriousness of the initiative by the ‘six’,” the French statement said, urging Iran to accept talks offered by the powers.

 

“Failing that, Iran will expose itself to constantly growing international pressure on all levels,” it added. The U.N.  Security Council has passed several rounds of sanctions against Iran for failing to heed calls to suspend uranium enrichment.

 

The six powers have offered Iran a package of economic and other incentives in exchange for which they want Iran to stop enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for power plants or, potentially, a nuclear weapon.

 

They have invited Iran to talks and asked that it suspend its uranium enrichment work while initial negotiations take place, but Iran has so far rejected the advances.

 

The powers suspect Iran is secretly developing the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, but Iran says it only wants to master atomic technology to generate electricity.

 

“LAST CHANCE”

 

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is prepared to hold talks with Iran to resolve the dispute, but Washington has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails.

 

“There is almost a last chance to negotiate and it must be seized,” a senior official in Sarkozy’s office told reporters.

 

The senior French official said the message Mottaki brought from Tehran was that the Iranians were putting the finishing touches to a counter-proposal to the package of incentives.

 

“The president (Sarkozy) told them ‘hurry up because time is running out’. He said they have to be real, positive counter-proposals,” the official said.

 

The rare encounter between a senior Iranian politician and the leader of a major power took place nine days before Iran’s presidential election, in which incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces a challenge from moderates seeking a thaw with the West.

 

Sarkozy is due to meet Obama on Saturday in France and Iran is certain to be high on the agenda.

 

“The window of opportunity (for Iran) opens on the morning of June 13 and ends in the autumn. Obama said by the end of the year but it will no doubt be well before the end of the year,” the official said.

 

Sarkozy also denounced comments by Ahmadinejad on Wednesday in which he called the Holocaust a “great deception”.

 

“The president (Sarkozy) condemned the remarks made on this day by the Iranian president calling into question the reality of the Holocaust,” the statement said, adding that the comments were “unacceptable and deeply shocking”.

 

Date created : 2009-06-04

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