France says U.N. must take tough action against Iran

PARIS Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:46pm EST

PARIS (Reuters) - The United Nations should adopt "strong measures" against Iran to persuade Iranian leaders to engage in meaningful discussion about their nuclear program, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday.

Addressing diplomats based in France, Sarkozy said the European Union should also "assume its responsibilities" in putting pressure on Tehran to enter into negotiations.

"To hesitate or to prevaricate in the face of such an issue would carry with it a great weight of responsibility," Sarkozy said. "The only aim of sanctions is to lead Iran to the negotiating table," he added.

Iran has ignored U.S. President Barack Obama's end-2009 deadline to respond to an offer from six world powers of economic and political incentives in exchange for halting its uranium enrichment program.

However, U.N. security council members, Russia and China, both appear reluctant to impose more sanctions on Iran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Friday that world powers should beware of pushing Iran into a corner.

But Sarkozy said the time had come for the international community to draw the consequences of Iran's refusal to talk.

"Despite all our efforts, and a new engagement by the United States, and despite our ambitious proposals for cooperation, the Iranian authorities are blocked in a one-way street of proliferation and radicalism," Sarkozy said.

"Today, they have added to that the brutal repression of their own people," he added.

"France wants the (U.N. Security) Council to adopt strong measures and for the European Union as well to assume its responsibilities," he said.

He added that North Korea should be treated in similar fashion to force it to meet its international obligations.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by James Mackenzie and Matthew Jones)

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