France calls for European sanctions against Iran

Paris, Sep 21 (Xinhua) France is calling on its European partners to take their own economic measures against Iran over its nuclear programme while working to secure new UN sanctions at the same time, the presidential office said.

These are basically “additional measures outside the UN” which “could even be taken without a common agreement between the Europeans”, presidential office spokesman David Martinon said Thursday.

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The additional measures would include “recommendations” to European companies calling on them “not to bid for new tenders in Iran, and on financial institutions to scale back their operations, to lower their investments”, the spokesman said.

In addition, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to raise the Iranian nuclear issue on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, set to be held in New York Sep 24-25, the spokesman said.

“Iran has been offered very generous proposals notably with regard to civilian nuclear cooperation,” Martinon said noting that Iran had declined the offer up to the moment.

“Two resolutions on sanctions have already been passed and we are moving towards a third resolution in order to strengthen the sanction regime further,” he said.

“For this to happen, we need to hold negotiations as the Security Council has to come up with an agreement and this could take time. This is why we have raised the spectre of additional sanctions,” Martinon said. “We hope that all EU countries will agree on this.”

France is increasingly taking a hard line in the dispute with Iran over its uranium enrichment programme, which the US and its allies suspect is the first step in an effort to acquire an atomic bomb.

While addressing French diplomats last month, President Sarkozy said that the threat of sanctions coupled with an offer for dialogue was the only way of avoiding a disastrous alternative, namely “an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran”.

Speaking on the same matter during a radio and television interview on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner caused a diplomatic storm when he said: “We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war.”

Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is peaceful insisting that it will never, under any circumstances, abandon its right to acquire nuclear technology.