French president rules out Kouchner trip to Tehran 'right now'
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 (AFP) Sep 24, 2007
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in an interview with The New York Times to be published Monday, said conditions for a visit to Iran by his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner were not favorable "right now."
Contradicting Kouchner's public offer to visit Iran, the French leader told the US daily: "I don't think that the conditions for a trip to Tehran are present right now."
Sarkozy, in his first interview with the English language press, told the daily that Iran's nuclear program was the top international issue.
"No nuclear weapon for Iran," he declared, adding that he would press for "an arsenal of sanctions" to dissuade Tehran from producing nuclear weapons, along with "negotiations, discussions, firmness."
But he took a step back from Kouchner's position in media interviews one week ago, in which he said France was preparing for the "worst" scenario with Iran: "war."
"For my part, I don't use the word 'war,'" Sarkozy told the Times.
Asked by the daily about the US administration's position on Iran's disputed nuclear program, Sarkozy parted company with his US ally.
"The expression 'all the options are on the table' is not mine. And I do not make it mine," he said of the line Bush has used to suggest that America has not ruled out military force to disarm Iran if necessary.
"I am not determining my position on the Iranian question based on the position of the United States alone," the French president said.
Asked about France's relationship with NATO and the possibility of its return to the alliances integrated military command, Sarkozy refused to rule it out, but said it would depend on how successful Europe is in building its own defenses.
"Europe cannot be an economic power without ensuring its own security," he said. "So I would make progress on European defense a condition for moving into the integrated command, and I am asking our American friends to understand that."
Sarkozy also argued that if France were to consider returning to NATO's integrated command, "it could take place only insofar as room would be made for French representatives on the governing bodies, at the highest level."
He noted that France was a founding member of NATO and had no problem with the alliance.
"We have to stop presenting NATO as some kind of boogeyman. That's the first point," said the French leader. "The second point: we are in NATO, we are even one of its main contributors, in financial and human terms. That's not something I am making up, may I remind you. So, is there a need for a change? It is a possibility which, if we are going consider it positively, hinges on two prerequisites that must be met."
But he insisted that he wanted to fight for European defense, arguing that regardless of NATO's importance, Europe must be able to defend itself effectively and independently.
A Europe capable of defending itself independently would not be a risk to the United States, Sarkozy insisted.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.