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Iran standoff sees France winning Gulf friends, influence

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P middle east

P middle east (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Reuters) – France’s tough line in major power talks with Iran may frustrate those looking for an early deal over Tehran’s nuclear program, but is helping Paris to seal strategic new links with Gulf states and Israel.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius emerged just after midnight from Saturday’s talks in Geneva to insist more work was needed to remove the risk of an Iranian nuclear bomb, rankling those Western allies who believed they were on the brink of an accord that has eluded negotiators for a decade.

France’s bottom-line position should have come as little surprise to other negotiators heading to Geneva last week.

While President Francois Hollande’s decision to pose for a photo opportunity with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at September’s U.N. General Assembly raised concerns in Israel, French officials were quick to insist that their negotiating stance would remain tough.

English: French Deputy Daniel Goldberg (left) ...

English: French Deputy Daniel Goldberg (left) with former French Minister Laurent Fabius (center) and Fodé Sylla (right). Français : Daniel Goldberg (à gauche) en campagne électoral avec l’ancien premier ministre Laurent Fabius (au centre) et l’ancien président de SOS-Racisme Fodé Sylla (à droite). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fabius stressed then that Iran must suspend construction of its Arak heavy-water reactor and halt uranium enrichment to a concentration of 20 percent to win an easing of international sanctions that are strangling its economy.

“This is not just about arms sales … but about strategic influence in the region,” said Middle East specialist Shashank Joshi at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London.

“France can win influence with Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

While Franco-U.S. relations have long since recovered from the lows reached in 2003 when Paris marshaled world opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, new tensions have emerged.

French officials were disappointed when they saw Washington as being hesitant to support Hollande’s January intervention in Mali to quash an insurgency by al Qaeda-linked rebels.

But they were even unhappier in August when, after much U.S. encouragement, they put French fighter jets within hours of bombing Syria to punish its use of chemical arms – only to be told by Barack Obama to stand down while he consulted the U.S. Congress, then to watch as his ardor for action cooled.

“Our American partners used to lecture us 15 years ago,” said a senior French official. “Now, when it comes to the Middle East they are filled with uncertainty and doubt. That uncertainty gives us a card to influence our policy.”


Written by voiceoftruthusa

November 11, 2013 at 1:43 am

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