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Middle east

Hollande talks tough on Iran during Israel visit

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-18

President François Hollande said Sunday that France will not accept the proliferation of nuclear arms as he arrived for a three-day state visit to Israel.

French President François Hollande began on Sunday his three-day state visit to Israel by taking a tough stand on Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, insisting that France would not accept the proliferation of nuclear arms.

"France will not tolerate nuclear proliferation," he said in a speech on the red carpet shortly after landing at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. "As long as we are not certain that Iran has decided to give up on nuclear weapons, we will continue with all our demands and with sanctions."

Hollande laid out four demands which he said must be in place for any deal to be successful.

"France is in favour of an interim agreement but on the basis of four points," he said at a joint news conference with Netanyahu.

"The first demand: put all the Iranian nuclear installations under international supervision, right now. Second point: suspend enrichment to 20 percent. Thirdly: to reduce the existing stock.

"And finally, to halt construction of the Arak (heavy water) plant. These are the points which for us are essential to guarantee any agreement."

France’s tough stance has been praised by Israeli officials, who view Iran’s nuclear programme as a direct threat. FRANCE 24’s international affairs editor Armen Georgian pointed out that the Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in Israel and the Republican party in the US are unusual allies for France. “It would have been unthinkable 10 or 12 years ago when Jacques Chirac was in power,” argued Georgian.

Talks in deadlock

According to diplomatic sources, Western powers and Tehran were close to a deal in Geneva, but Iran backed off because it was unhappy with some of the wording in the text.

According to some reports, this was due to reservations expressed by  France and which were subsequently adopted by other powers. The talks are due to resume in Geneva next week.

FRANCE 24's Jerusalem correspondent Gallagher Fenwick said Israel had taken France's position in the negotiations "very seriously".

"This is the big issue in Israel right now," he said. "The path is clear for them to roll out the red carpet."

Talks with Palestinians

The other main issues during the trip are the stalled Middle East peace process and stronger trade ties with Israel.

The French leader, apart from holding talks with Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres, will also go to Ramallah for discussions with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.

French sources said he would encourage both sides to make the necessary compromises and efforts to overcome the obstacles to peace talks.

Hollande will make a series of highly symbolic gestures during his trip, where he will place a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, and place a stone at the grave of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and his wife Leah.

On Monday, Hollande will meet French priests in the Church of Saint Anne in Jerusalem's Old City, a building the Ottomans donated to France in 1856.

He will also visit the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004 in France in a hospital and whose remains were recently found to contain signs of polonium poisoning.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-11-17

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