Chirac, Mubarak push for diplomacy with Iran

20th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

CAIRO, April 19, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday urged nations to pursue diplomacy rather than military force with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

CAIRO, April 19, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday urged nations to pursue diplomacy rather than military force with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

"We must explore all diplomatic possibilities," Chirac said at a press conference in Cairo after arriving for a two-day visit during which he was expected to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran's nuclear ambitions with his counterpart.

Mubarak expressed the same view as Chirac and also warned against the use of military force.

"This question must be resolved through diplomatic and political means, distancing military operations which would have dangerous repercussions in the region," Mubarak said after meeting with the French president.

Iran's controversial nuclear drive was expected to top the agenda of the summit, a week after the Islamic republic's defiant leaders announced that its scientists had successfully enriched uranium to make nuclear fuel.

The Iranian leaders "must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable," Chirac said in an interview to the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram published Wednesday.

The French president insisted that the door remained open for a resumption of talks as soon as Iran went along with the requests of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Security Council.

"More than ever the choice is in the hands of the Iranian leaders," he said.

Iran, suspected by the West of wanting to acquire the atomic bomb, has refused to suspend its uranium enrichment activities in spite of pressure by the big powers.

Egypt is calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis but is also worried by the fact that Israel refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Experts believe Israel has some 200 nuclear warheads.

In the interview, the French leader also called on the hardline Hamas-controlled Palestinian government and Israel to "make the necessary gestures" for a resumption of "real" peace negotiations.

Speaking later at the press conference, Chirac said he supported continued aid to the Palestinians "for legal and humanitarian reasons," and added he planned to discuss the matter further with Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas.

"It is politically clumsy to make the Palestinian population pay" for the arrival in power of Hamas by cutting aid, Chirac said.

The United States and European Union suspended aid to the Palestinian government but vowed to continue humanitarian aid for the people following the radical Islamist movement's election win in January.

Hamas is on the EU and US terror blacklists.

French presidential spokesman Jérome Bonnafont said Wednesday that France was "convinced that Egypt had a very special part to play in convincing Hamas to change its positions."

A suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic Jihad group Monday in Tel Aviv claimed nine lives, the deadliest attack since August 2004. The Palestinian government refused to condemn the attack and said Israel bore responsibility for it.

Chirac also said during the press conference that he backed "full sovereignty" for Lebanon and said "light must be shed on the assassination" of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in a February 2005 bomb blast that many in Lebanon have blamed on Syria.

Chirac's visit to Egypt, his first since 2002, is a chance "to take stock of the situation, after four years which have seen many changes in Egypt and across the region," a French diplomat told AFP.

The French president travelled to Egypt with his wife Bernadette and an 80-strong delegation including three ministers and several of France's top business leaders.

On Thursday, Chirac is scheduled to officially inaugurate the French University in Egypt, which first opened three and a half years ago and whose first graduates should receive their diplomas in a few weeks.

He will also launch the Franco-Egyptian Presidential Business Council, a body aimed at facilitating and boosting trade between the two countries.

France is the fourth largest investor in the Egyptian economy and its exports increased by 40 percent in 2005 compared to the previous year.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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