Sarkozy lands in Moscow after issuing Iran warning

By Emmanuel Jarry, Reuters

MOSCOW — French President Nicolas Sarkozy landed in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, hours after saying France will not compromise on the need for tougher sanctions on Iran.

Sarkozy praised Putin as a man with whom he could do business, but his comments on Iran are likely to put him at odds with Moscow, which has said it does not believe further sanctions against Tehran will be helpful.

“Between resignation (to Iran’s nuclear ambitions) and war — and these two words are not in my lexicon — there is a responsible stance: toughening sanctions with the aim of bringing Iran to its senses,” Sarkozy said. “No one should put in doubt France’s seriousness and resoluteness on this issue,” he said in the interview in Russia’s state-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.

“We are talking about protecting our collective security from the danger of nuclear proliferation. I will not give ground on an issue which is of such great importance.”

Western powers believe Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for a bomb-making project. Tehran denies this. Russia has used its veto in the United Nations Security Council to water down previous sanctions.

Sarkozy, on his first trip to Russia as president, landed in Moscow on Tuesday. He is to have a working dinner with Putin at his residence near Moscow.

The French leader, in the interview, criticised Russia for disruptions in the past to oil and gas supplies to European customers.

“I will not hide from you that when Russia, without warning, halts energy deliveries to a part of Europe, that damages trust,” Sarkozy said.

But he described Putin as a pragmatist. “This should help us find a common language on these important international issues,” he said in the interview.