French FM Kouchner: The Iranian nuclear crisis forces the world to prepare for the worst - which is war

September 16, 2007, 10:39 PM (GMT+02:00)

In a series of press, radio and TV interviews, Sunday, Sept. 16, Bernard Kouchner also said he had advised large French companies not to respond to tenders issued by Tehran. DEBKAfile adds: France thus joined the economic sanctions imposed by the US, Britain, Japan and Germany on Iran for refusing to give up uranium enrichment, but implicit in Kouchner’s advice was a word of caution to French companies to stay clear of business complications with a nation on the brink of war.

The French foreign minister, who is clearly focusing on the Middle East, spoke shortly after visits to Iraq, Lebanon and Israel and the Israeli air force operation over Syria ten days ago. Paris sees ominous signals in the expanding Iranian intervention in combat against US forces in Iraq by stepped up weapons deliveries to the insurgents and their training, and the rising military tensions between Israel and Syria – all under the cloud of the nuclear issue.


France Calls For Tough European Sanctions On Iran
By Victor Comras

The New French Government is now adding its own weight in support of U.S. efforts to get Iran to back off from its accelerated uranium enrichment program. French President Sarkozy indicated shortly after his election that he would place a very high priority on the nuclear proliferation risks posed by Iran. A few days ago French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Iran in stark terms to halt its quest for nuclear weapons capability. Their failure to take the international community's s concerns seriously, could, he warned, ultimately lead to war. The “world should prepare for the worst,” Kouchner cautioned, “which is war.” That’s particularly strong language coming from the French.

While Prime Minister Francois Fillon sought to smooth over Kouchner’s harsh remarks, he didn’t back down from them. Rather, Fillon stressed that while it would continue to pursue all possibilities for a negotiated settlement, France was now convinced that further sanctions or Iran were needed to bring the message home to Iran’s leaders. France, he indicated, has formally proposed imposing European wide sanctions on Iran, which would be separate from what the UN Security Council might do. The Security Council has made little progress, so far, in coming up with a new set of sanctions on Iran. "These would be European sanctions that each country, individually, must put in place with its own banking, commercial and industrial system. The English and the Germans are interested in talking about this. We will try to find a common European position," Kouchner said. Dutch Foreign Minister, Maxime Verhagen, has also indicated that if the Security Council fails to act on new stringent sanctions measures, that the Dutch government could well join with the United States in applying unilateral sanctions on Iran.

Unfortunately, other European leaders have not been as forthcoming. In Germany, for example a conference entitled "Iran - Business Opportunities for German Exporters" is scheduled to open tomorrow in Darmstadt. The conference reportedly is a joint initiative between the Hessian state government and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. However, the German Chamber of Conference did remove from its website the text of an invitation to the conference which read, in part,: "Iran is accustomed to crises - but somehow always keeps going forward. Iran's economic potential makes the country a worthwhile investment in any case."

Europe can play a critical role in convincing Iran to change course (see my Congressional Testimony on Iran Sanctions at recent House and Senate hearings) Alone, the United States lacks significant sanctions leverage on Iran. But, joined by Europe, combined US European sanctions can have a major impact on Iran’s economy, and will go a long way toward convincing Iran’s leaders to reassess their current policies. The question remains just how far European countries are willing to go with new sanctions, and how many European Countries will participate. Europe remains Iran’s largest trading partner, and potential source for foreign investment. Iran – Europe two-way trade amounts to some $26 billion per year. And Iran is still much more reliant on European imports than Europe is dependent on Iranian Oil. And beyond European Sanctions, there is still a real possibility that combined US-European clout will also bring China and Russia around. So, lets hope that France, Britain, the Netherlands and other European non proliferation committed countries follow through with meaningful sanctions and resist those advocating more effete measures in the name of a lowest denominator consensus.


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