Sarkozy seeks Syrian help in Iran nuclear standoff

September 4th, 2008 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Damascus, Sep 4 (RIA Novosti) French president Nicolas Sarkozy has asked for help from his Syrian counterpart to ensure that Iran does not produce nuclear weapons.Sarkozy said after meeting President Bashar Assad in Damascus Wednesday: “I told the president that Syria can play a role in the Iranian issue. Iran must not obtain the atomic bomb, but it has the right to nuclear energy for peaceful use.”

Assad said his country has long been against the presence of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and has in the past asked the UN Security Council to impose a ban on weapons of mass destruction in the region, which it refused to do.

He added that the Iranian issue could only be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means and warned that any attempts to use military force to stop Iran’s nuclear programme would lead to a “catastropheā€¯.

The US and Israel, Middle East’s sole nuclear power, have refused to rule out the possibility of strikes against Iran to end its nuclear programme. Russia has been the key backer of Iran’s civil nuclear development, building the country’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr and supplying it with low-enriched uranium.

The French president, visiting Syria for the first time, stressed the importance of negotiations between Syria and Israel for peace in the region, and said Paris was ready to support face-to-face negotiations.

“It is very important that the time for Syria and Israel to talk directly comes soon, to create the peace that everyone needs,” Sarkozy said.

Syria has faced isolation by Western powers in recent years over its backing of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and its ties with Iran.

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