French President François Hollande threatened Iran with new sanctions Wednesday after talks with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu. The two will attend a memorial ceremony Thursday for the victims of a March shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Sanctions against Iran took centre stage on Wednesday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met President François Hollande for the first time since the French leader took office in May.
Following a working lunch with Hollande, Netanyahu reiterated his administration’s hawkish stance on Iran, accused of developing nuclear weapons that Israel believes would be a threat to its existence.
Netanyahu called for “even tougher sanctions against Iran", saying: "The sanctions are taking a bite out of Iran's economy, but unfortunately they have not stopped the Iranian [nuclear] programme.”
France open to more sanctions
Netanyahu has repeatedly said that a nuclear-armed Iran threatens the existence of the Jewish state and has refused to rule out military action, fuelling speculation that Israel is planning an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran denies accusations that it is seeking a weapons capability and says it has a right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Hollande, whose government wants to keep the door open for dialogue with Iran, told reporters that Tehran had not proved its claims that its nuclear programme was peaceful and that it did not intend to build a bomb.
France, he said, was “ready to vote for other sanctions, as many as necessary”.
Reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks
A source close to Netanyahu said the two leaders would also touch on ways to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, although Israel's continued settlement-building is a point of contention between the two men.
The Israeli premier last visited Paris in May 2011 in a bid to secure French support to undermine a Palestinian initiative to seek full membership at the United Nations. While this is his first meeting with Hollande, France’s new president has already welcomed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to Paris on two occasions since taking office in May.
Netanyahu met Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius later in the afternoon.
Tribute to victims of Toulouse shootings
"I think it's important to delineate a red line for Iran", Netanyahu said (17/09).
The Israeli leader, who is in the middle of the campaign season ahead of a January election, “hopes to build a good working relationship with the French leader", a source close to Netanyahu told AFP.
The two will travel to Toulouse on Thursday to attend a memorial ceremony for three children and a French-Israeli teacher shot dead at a Jewish school in March by Mohammed Merah, who confessed that he was inspired by al Qaeda before being killed in a shootout with police.
"Netanyahu wants to send a message of solidarity with victims of terrorism -- both Jewish and non-Jewish," said an Israeli source involved in the Toulouse visit, adding: "He wants to emphasise the importance of unified international action against terrorism.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2012-10-31