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. 'Danger of war' exists with Iran: Sarkozy
PARIS, Dec 12 (AFP) Dec 12, 2007
French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned of a risk of a war with Iran if Israel considered its security seriously threatened by Tehran's nuclear drive in a magazine interview to be published Thursday.

Sarkozy also said he was ready to travel to Tehran to discuss a civilian nuclear partnership if the country steps up its cooperation with the UN atomic watchdog.

"The problem for us is not so much the risk that the Americans launch a military intervention, but that the Israelis consider their security to be truly threatened," Sarkozy told Le Nouvel Observateur.

"Everyone agrees on the fact that what the Iranians are doing has no civilian explanation," Sarkozy said, referring to Tehran's uranium enrichment work. "The only debate is about whether they will develop a military capacity in one or five years."

Israel considers Iran its number one enemy following repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map.

"The danger of a war exists," said the French president, who insisted he had "never been in favour of war."

Sarkozy held out the prospect of a nuclear partnership with Tehran if it improved its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), saying he had the "trust of the Israelis and the Americans" on the matter.

"If Iran allows the IAEA to carry out its checks, I would be ready to travel to Tehran to discuss a collaboration on civilian nuclear energy," he said.

The Vienna-based watchdog said last month that Iran had taken important steps in revealing the extent of its nuclear programme but was still defying UN demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.

An IAEA delegation arrived in Tehran Sunday to tackle outstanding questions over its nuclear programme.

The United States and other Western powers want Iran to suspend enrichment completely, suspecting it of seeking to develop a nuclear bomb -- a charge denied by Iran.

US President George W. Bush said Iran was "dangerous", despite the publication last week of a US intelligence report saying Iran had suspended a secret nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

The report said allegations about Iran's atomic goals had been overblown for at least two years, but it also said the Islamic republic could have the capability to make a nuclear weapon by 2015.

Widely considered the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, Israel has vowed to keep up its diplomatic campaign against Iran's nuclear drive.

France has also toughened its line on Iran since Sarkozy's election in May, and is now much closer to that of the United States.

Sarkozy has said a new UN resolution boosting sanctions against Iran is still justified despite the US report.

But he also insisted in the interview that "the Americans are not, in this case, warmongers."

The United States, Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China had been working on a new UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran's enrichment programme when the US report was released.

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