Sarkozy talks tough on Iran at Israeli parliament


FRANCE:FRENCH PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy told Israel's parliament yesterday that it would be "unacceptable" for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and that France would "always" stand by Israel when it was threatened.

But he also said that if Israel wanted to achieve peace and security, it would have to halt settlement construction and share Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

"France will always be by Israel's side when its security, its existence are threatened," Mr Sarkozy told MPs. "Israel must know it is not alone in the battle against Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"France," he added, "is determined to pursue with its partners a policy ranging from ever-tighter sanctions to an opening should Tehran opt to respect its international obligations."

The visit by Mr Sarkozy, who is on a three-day trip to Israel to mark the country's 60th anniversary, is the first by a French president in almost 12 years. He is only the second French president to address the Israeli parliament; the first was François Mitterand in 1982. He and his wife Carla Bruni have been warmly received by Israelis who consider him much more supportive of the Jewish state than his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

But the French leader was blunt on the issue of settlements. "There can be no peace without stopping settlement," he told parliament.

"There is a proposal backed by many members of your Knesset for the adoption of a law that would encourage settlers to leave the West Bank in exchange for compensation and relocation in Israel," he added. There would not be a durable peace "without recognising Jerusalem as the capital of two states" and "without a solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees".

A spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian president was encouraged by these remarks. "The positions expressed by President Sarkozy reflect the French support for the Palestinian cause in seeking to reach a peaceful settlement in the region," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

The French leader is scheduled to meet Mr Abbas today.