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Tougher on Iran, Sarkozy outlines ambitious foreign policies
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Wrapping up his Russia tour on Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said progress has been made with President Vladimir Putin in resolving differences over Iran, but French media said fundamental differences still exist and Sarkozy maintained a tough stance on Tehran.


On the eve of his departure to Moscow, Sarkozy said the crisis arising from the Iranian nuclear program is the most alarming one in the world today.


"We must do all we can to avoid being locked in a disastrous alternative: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran," he said in an interview with the Russian daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.


Compared with his predecessor Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy's dealings with Iran are no longer softened. He summoned his top diplomats in an Aug. 27 meeting to outline his new foreign policy blueprint, including the non-acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran.


Highlighting his foreign policies over such hot international issues as Iran's nuclear question is also important for an ambitious Sarkozy who aspires to uplift France's role in the international arena, analysts said.


France and Iran have long held differences in many issues in the Middle East. Iran's alleged support for Hezbollah has affected France's interests in Lebanon.


A tougher stance on Tehran is also perceived as a signal of shoring up ties with the United States. Since taking power, Sarkozy has streamlined France's foreign policies toward sharing more common stands with Washington on major international affairs.


In August, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the first top French official to touch Iraqi soil since the US-led invasion in2003, paid a surprise visit to Iraq to demonstrate "France's willingness to play a role in the region."


The visit reflected the French government's willingness to mend ties with the US four years after the start of the Iraq war, which was not popular with ex-president Chirac.


President Sarkozy is also seeing closer French involvement in NATO. He set the tone with a keynote foreign policy speech in August insisting the North Atlantic alliance was no rival to France's ambition of a robust European Union defense capability.


Analysts said that Paris might be considering reversing the 1966 decision by General Charles de Gaulle to pull out of NATO's integrated military command.


Through applying more pressure on Iran and enhancing links with the US and NATO, analysts said Sarkozy is seeking to steer France toward a more important role in the international arena.


(Xinhua News Agency October 11, 2007)

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