March 21, 2008 / 7:04 PM / 11 years ago

McCain praises Sarkozy over Iran sanctions

PARIS (Reuters) - Presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday Paris could play a leading role over international sanctions to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) shakes hands with U.S. presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March 21, 2008. Left is Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, McCain said there were many issues France and the United States could work on together and he singled out the drive against Iran.

“President Sarkozy has already recommended that we join together with meaningful sanctions on Iran that would deter them on their path of acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said.

“I believe that it could be very effective and I believe President Sarkozy’s leadership on that issue is very important.”

The U.N. Security Council has passed three rounds of sanctions against Iran for failing to allay fears it is trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian power program.

Iran denies the charges, saying it only wants to make electricity.

Sarkozy has said repeatedly that Tehran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons and specifically mentioned Iran on Friday as a potential nuclear threat.

McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for the November election, was in Paris as part of a Senate Armed Services Committee fact-finding mission that also visited Iraq, Israel, Jordan and Britain.

He said he had thanked Sarkozy for French participation in combat operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan and said he had talked about climate change, including the importance of nuclear power in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

He praised Sarkozy, who has put great effort into improving relations with Washington after the falling out over the U.S.-led war in Iraq under his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

“I think relations with France will continue to improve no matter who is president of the United States because this president is committed to greater cooperation and values our friendship,” he said.

In November, Sarkozy and President George W. Bush, who has led international criticism of Iran over the past year, agreed to keep the pressure on Tehran.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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