French PM calls for stronger sanctions on Iran
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for stronger sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.
"In Istanbul, in January, Iran opposed our renewed proposal for serious dialogue over its nuclear programme," Fillon said aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle off the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
"To convince Iran to return to the negotiating table, we'll have to strengthen sanctions," he told military personnel on the French navy's flagship which is holding joint exercises with the Saudi military.
On Friday, a Western diplomat said in Washington that the world's major powers would consider tougher, non-UN measures against Iran to include financial as well as oil and gas sanctions.
At talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul last month, world powers failed to persuade Iran to take steps to ease suspicions over its nuclear programme, as the defiant Islamic republic insists on uranium enrichment.
Iran's alleged ambition to acquire nuclear weapons is a "source of concern, not only for the West," said Fillon, referring to Saudi Arabia and the Islamic republic's other Arab neighbours in the Gulf.
"Iran's possession of a bomb would destabilise the region where tensions are already extremely high. It is an unacceptable prospect for us and for the countries in the region," he said.
Tehran has repeatedly denied it is working to build a nuclear bomb, insisting its nuclear programme is for purely civilian and research uses.
After holding talks in Riyadh, the French prime minister was on Sunday to travel on the United Arab Emirates, where he will visit France's military base in Abu Dhabi.
Inaugurated in 2009, the base where 650 French soldiers will be stationed by the end of 2011, is located less than 250 kilometres (155 miles) from the Iranian coast.
© 2011 AFP