UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy piled pressure on Iran at the United Nations Tuesday, saying it would be unacceptable for the Islamic republic to get hold of nuclear weapons.
Sarkozy's comments came just hours before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due to address the world body, in a speech expected to attempt to play down fears of Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"Iran has the right to nuclear energy," Sarkozy told world leaders at the General Assembly's 62nd session here. "But allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons would mean an unacceptable risk for regional and world stability."
Sarkozy added there would be no world peace if the international community "shows weakness in the face of the proliferation of nuclear weapons," in a speech received with loud applause from the rest of the assembly.
Earlier Tuesday, US President George W. Bush delivered an address to the world body that surprisingly paid little attention to Iran -- alleged by the United States to be a sponsor of terrorism and part of an "axis of evil."
Washington has repeatedly accused Tehran of trying to obtain nuclear weapons, arming insurgents battling US troops in Iraq and aiding Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist group.
Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York on Sunday, has repeatedly insisted that Tehran has no intention of developing nuclear weapons.
"We do not believe in nuclear weapons. Period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity," Ahmadinejad said Monday, speaking at Columbia University.
He earlier told Washington's National Press Club that there was neither any reason to believe the United States and Iran were on a collision course to war.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said last week that France was preparing for war as a worst-case scenario, but Ahmadinejad described such talk as "a propaganda tool. Why is there a need for a war?" he asked.
The UN Security Council has adopted three resolutions against Iran. Two include sanctions because of Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
The United States is pushing for further UN sanctions on Tehran and would hold talks with the four other members of the Security Council -- France, Britain, Russia and China -- along with Germany on the issue this week.
Sarkozy stressed in an interview with the New York Times Monday his government's line was "no nuclear weapon for Iran" and said he would press for "an arsenal of sanctions" to convince Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions.
But he took a step back from his foreign minister's position in media interviews one week ago, in which he said France was preparing for war. "For my part, I don't use the word 'war,'" Sarkozy told the Times.
Kouchner and his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, were meanwhile to meet later Tuesday on the sidelines of the General Assembly, diplomats said.
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