Thursday, April 14, 2005

Chirac: Iran Nuclear Pledge Will Give New Dimension To Ties

Dow Jones Newswires, AP:
French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday that an accord to ensure that Iran 's nuclear program is used only for peaceful means would give a "new dimension" to its regional and international ties. READ MORE

Speaking in a dinner toast to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Chirac reviewed the situation in the Middle East, from Iraq to Lebanon. He stressed France's wish to further strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, saying that a regular dialogue was "capital."

The crown prince, who arrived earlier Wednesday ahead of a trip to Washington, said he wanted to see relations between his country and Paris become "exemplary."

"To all those who predict a shock of civilizations, we answer simply: Look at France and Saudi Arabia, and you will understand how friendship between civilizations is woven."

Chirac noted that France, Germany and Britain were holding talks with Iran to ensure that Tehran's nuclear program wasn't used to develop weapons. The U.S. has toned down its hard-line rhetoric to give the diplomacy a chance.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian use, such as electrical power generation.

The Europeans are offering political and economic incentives to obtain guarantees that Iran does not intend to produce nuclear weapons, and say that U.S. support is essential.

The issue was at the center of talks Tuesday with U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who pressed the U.S. to threaten Iran with international sanctions.

France has long worked to maintain dialogue with Iran on bristly issues, and Chirac met here last week with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

"An accord would give a new dimension to Iran 's relations with states of the region and with members of the international community," Chirac said. "The stability of the Middle East and, in particular, of the Gulf, would be strengthened."

On Lebanon, Chirac said that France was at the side of the Lebanese people in their effort to establish democracy and regain their sovereignty. That can only happen through fully democratic elections "in the schedule time" and formation of a government, he said without mentioning Syria, which is completing its withdrawal from Lebanon.

Chirac spoke hours after pro-Syrian Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami announced he couldn't form a Cabinet and was stepping down. The move could undermine next month's legislative elections. The country has been without a government since Feb. 28.