Sarkozy’s annual meeting with the French diplomatic corps began with condolences from the papal nunzio Mgr Luigi Ventura for the four French soldiers killed Friday in Afghanistan.
The news had just come through and prompted Sarkozy to suspend aid and training with the Afghan military and to threaten that French troops might be brought home sooner than planned if they could not be sure that Afghan soldiers would not turn on them.
The president went on to warn of the danger of war because of Iran’s alleged aspirations to have nuclear weapons, if Israel takes matters into its own hands and launches military operations against Iranian targets, as some Israeli politicians have threatened.
Such attacks “would not solve the problem but would unleash war and chaos in the Middle East and, perhaps, across the world”, he said.
To avoid such a scenario the United Nations should introduce “a much tougher and more decisive sanctions regime”, including stopping Iranian oil imports and a freeze of the Iranian central bank’s assets, he said.
Sarkozy appealed to China and Russia, who have blocked tougher sanctions at the UN Security Council, to back such a move.
China is the biggest customer for Iranian oil, buying 22 per cent of its production.
On Thursday Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who was winding up a tour of the Middle East, declared that there would be no change in Beijing’s policy of not interfering in Iranian internal affairs.
The world according to Sarkozy faces “multiple dangers”, including:
- Bashar al-Assad’s “vicious repression” in Syria will lead to “chaos” and “will benefit extremists of all stripes” if it continues;
- The Middle East Quartet has failed to establish peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the peace process is hit by “unacceptable paralysis”;
- “The eurozone is still in danger” after Standard & Poor’s downgrading of France and several other countries;
- Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande’s suggestion to cede France’s right of veto in the UN Security Council to the European Union “makes no sense”.