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France

France to oppose Iranian mediation on Syria at UN meet

media Iranian President Hassan Rohani (R) AFP/Vyacheslav Oselekdo

France will say no to Iran's efforts to mediate in the Syria conflict when President François Hollande meets Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Paris wants a resolution that is "as binding as possible" on Syria's chemical weapons arsenal to be passed.

Iran requested the meeting, which is to focus on the Syrian conflict and Iran's nuclear programme, and there is speculation that the recently elected Rowhani will also meet US President Barack Obama.

But, despite signs that Rowhani will be more conciliatory towards the West than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, France is opposed to Tehran's offer to mediate with Syria, claiming that it is too close to Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"We all know the role Iran has played at the side of the regime," foreign ministry spokesperson Philippe Lalliot said on Friday. "They themselves acknowledge providing military, not just political, support."

Hollande wants the resolution on Syria's chemical weapons arsenal to be "as binding as possible", sources close to him told the AFP news agency on Friday, but accepts that Russia may block the use of force.

"We want the possibility of control, inspection and maximum sanctions," the source said, adding that the closer that gets to endorsing the use of force the better.

But French diplomats realise that, while Russia accepts the need to destroy the chemical weapons, it will almost certainly veto references to the use of force on the UN Security Council, so compromise may be necessary.

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