France skeptical of success in Iran talks

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 07, 2012 3:14 AM
France skeptical of success in Iran talks

PARIS (Reuters) - France's Foreign Minister said on Wednesday he was skeptical renewed talks between six world powers and Iran would succeed as Tehran was still not sincere in its willingness to negotiate over the future of its nuclear program.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany in dealings with Iran, said on Tuesday the six powers had accepted an Iranian offer for talks on its disputed nuclear program.

"I am a little skeptical ... I think Iran continues to be two-faced," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France's i-Tele television.

"That's why I think we have to continue to be extremely firm on sanctions, which in my view are the best way to prevent a military option that would have unforeseeable consequences."

The Islamic Republic's approach to the six powers, in a letter dated February 14, comes as it suffers unprecedented economic pain from expanding sanctions against its oil and financial sectors.

Western states are likely to tread cautiously in talks, mindful of past accusations that Iran's willingness to negotiate has been a stalling tactic to blunt pressure rather than a genuine effort to reach agreement.

With Israel speaking increasingly loudly of resorting to military action, the talks could provide some respite in a crisis that has driven up oil prices and threatened to suck the United States into its third major war in a decade.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first among leaders of the six powers to push for tighter sanctions on Iranian oil and finance, however Juppe on Wednesday signaled that France was wary of resorting to a military strike against Iran.

"There is still a debate in Israel (about a military strike) and it's our responsibility to bring to Israel's attention the unforeseeable consequences it would have," he said.

Sarkozy said in January that time was running out for efforts to avoid military intervention in Iran.

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Ben Harding)