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French president calls for firmness and dialogue to end Iranian nuclear standoff
UN France General A 6285861
President of France Nicolas Sarkozy addresses the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007, at the U.N. headquarters. - photo by Associated Press
    UNITED NATIONS — The French president said Tuesday the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program will only be resolved with a combination of ‘‘firmness and dialogue,’’ while Germany’s leader threatened tougher sanctions if the country refuses to cooperate.
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the U.N. General Assembly that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an ‘‘unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world.’’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who insists Iran’s program is purely peaceful and aimed at producing nuclear energy, was scheduled to speak later Tuesday.
    ‘‘There will not be peace in the world if the international community falters in the face of the proliferation of nuclear arms,’’ Sarkozy said. The Iranian crisis ‘‘will only be resolved if firmness and dialogue go hand-in-hand.’’
    The U.S. and many of its allies, including France, have been pressuring Iran to suspend its nuclear program, which they believe is a cover for weapons development — a charge Iran denies. President Bush has refused to take military action off the table if Iran does not comply.
    In an angry defense of Iran, Nicaragua’s leftist President Daniel Ortega chastised the U.S. for seeking to restrict the right to enrich uranium, which is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
    Ortega said the United States, as ‘‘the only country in the world to have dropped nuclear bombs on innocent people,’’ had no right to question the right of Iran and North Korea to pursue nuclear technology for ‘‘peaceful purposes.’’
    ‘‘And even if they want nuclear power for purposes that are not peaceful, with what right does (the U.S.) question it?’’ he told the world leaders.
    Ortega has promised to maintain ties with Washington since taking office again in January, but also has signed a series of accords with Iran.
    Sarkozy’s comments came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tougher sanctions against Iran if the country remains intractable on the dispute over its nuclear program.
    Merkel said she intends to make clear in her address to the General Assembly later Tuesday that an Iranian nuclear bomb would have devastating consequences not only for Israel and the whole of the Middle East, but for Europe and the rest of the world.
    ‘‘For this reason, the international community must not let itself become splintered’’ in dealing with Iran, Merkel told reporters in New York.
    ‘‘The world should not have to prove to Iran that it is building a (nuclear) bomb, but Iran must convince the world that it doesn’t want to build a nuclear bomb,’’ Merkel said.
    Ahmadinejad said in an Associated Press interview on Monday that Iran has complied with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
    ‘‘So we believe that the only way is for us to continue our constructive cooperation and relations with the IAEA, something that has been in place from the start, and if these powers stop interfering, there’s really no problem.’’
    Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged to push for lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to the conflict in Darfur in the coming year, calling it one of the most challenging in the U.N.’s history.
    ‘‘Looking to the coming year and beyond, we can foresee a daunting array of challenges to come,’’ he said. ‘‘They are problems that respect no borders — that no country, big or small, rich or poor, can resolve on its own.’’
    Ban said peace in the Middle East is vital to the stability of the region and the world.
    ‘‘We know what is required: an end to violence, an end to occupation, the creation of a Palestinian state at peace with itself and Israel, and a comprehensive regional peace between Israel and the Arab world,’’ he said.
    He also said the U.N. would ‘‘leave no stone unturned to end the tragedy in Darfur’’ and urged the Sudanese government to live up to its pledge to implement a cease-fire and join peace talks on ending the conflict in the war-ravaged region.
    The high-level session opened with speeches by Ban and Bush.
    Amadinejad, whose speech at Columbia University on Monday provoked widespread protests, was in the General Assembly chamber for Bush’s speech. A U.N. diplomat in the chamber said the Iranian president listened to the secretary-general but pulled out his earpiece before Bush started to speak.
    On the Middle East, Ban said the elements for a renewed push for peace were being brought together by Arab leaders and international negotiators. The U.S. is hosting a high-level summit this fall focusing on a comprehensive peace agreement.
    Ban cautioned, however, that the global community must address the worsening security situation in Iraq, calling it ‘‘the whole world’s problem.’’ He said the U.N. has an important role to play in promoting political negotiations and national reconciliation in the country.
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who captured the world’s attention at last year’s General Assembly meeting by calling President Bush ‘‘the devil,’’ instead sent his foreign minister. Chavez said he regretted not being able to attend the meeting ‘‘in the very cave of the empire’’ where leaders can unmask U.S. hostility toward other nations.
    Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo contributed to this report.

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