France will never tolerate nuclear proliferation, President Francois Hollande vowed today as Israel expressed “grave concern” about a looming deal between world powers and Iran.
As the French leader arrived in Israel on his first state visit, the question of how to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions loomed large over his talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
But as he sought to reassure Israel of France’s absolute determination to disarm Iran, he also made clear that the peace process was high on his agenda, saying Paris expected “gestures” from Israel over its construction of settlements in order to advance talks with the Palestinians.
The visit comes three days before the P5+1 group of world powers are to resume talks with Iran in Geneva to eke out a deal for scaling back Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
A previous round of talks ended on November 10 without agreement, with France taking a tougher stance than its Western partners in a move which won glowing praise in Israel.
Hollande laid out four demands which he said must be in place for any deal to be successful.
“France is in favour of an interim agreement but on the basis of four points,” he said at a joint news conference with Netanyahu.
“The first demand: put all the Iranian nuclear installations under international supervision, right now. Second point: suspend enrichment to 20 percent. Thirdly: to reduce the existing stock.
“And finally, to halt construction of the Arak (heavy water) plant. These are the points which for us are essential to guarantee any agreement.”
Israel has reacted furiously at the prospect of cutting a deal with Iran, warning the international community it was likely to reach a better deal by keeping the sanctions in place or even ratcheting them up.
“I’m concerned, gravely concerned, that this deal will go through and in one stroke of the pen, it will reduce the sanctions on Iran — sanctions that took years to put in place — and in return for this, Iran gives practically nothing,” Netanyahu said.
“It’s clear that this agreement is good only for Iran and that it’s really bad for the rest of the world,” he said. “Iran’s dream deal is the world’s nightmare.”
Read more at AFP.