France and Russia closer on Iran talks
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia – French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after talks Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two countries had bridged some of their differences on the Iran nuclear standoff.Sarkozy has taken a firm line on Iran in recent months, shifting closer to the United States in his insistence on tough U.N. Security Council sanctions and even his mention of the possibility of war. While the United States and European nations are pressing for greater sanctions, Russia and China have resisted.”Our positions moved much closer together” on Iran and other sensitive subjects, Sarkozy told reporters during his first presidential visit to Russia. He mentioned “many convergences” on Iran but would not elaborate.Putin heads to Iran early next week amid heightened international tensions over Tehran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment – activity the U.S. claims is aimed at building weapons but Iran insists is for peaceful purposes.Asked whether Putin could present a new proposal to the Iranians to defuse the standoff, Sarkozy responded only that Putin’s trip would be “very useful.”In brief remarks to reporters before their talks, the two did not mention any of their points of discord, including Iran’s nuclear program or Russia’s use of its energy supplies to pressure neighboring countries.”We need, for the peace of the world, to work together,” Sarkozy said.The French leader said he discussed diplomatic successes with North Korea as a possible example for the Iran dilemma, noting the influence China had in bringing North Koreans to negotiations.Sarkozy said the two also discussed Kosovo and Putin’s political future among several other topics during three hours of talks Tuesday night.Upon arrival at Putin’s forest estate Tuesday night, Sarkozy stayed firm with the Russian president, saying he would defend France’s convictions. But he also said he would try to understand Russia, whose relations with Iran and increasing assertiveness have raised global concern.”I appreciate the strength of your convictions,” Sarkozy told Putin. “I think that we can understand each other, because such convictions, I have them too.”Sarkozy added that France wants to be Russia’s “friend.” Putin responded with an oft-repeated verse from 19th century Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev: “One cannot understand Russia with the mind. … One can only believe in it.”Putin expressed hope that trade between the countries would grow.”France has been and I hope will be a priority partner in Europe and the world,” he said.Off camera, the two presidents chatted about jogging and swimming, and Sarkozy rode shotgun as Putin drove him across the grounds in a Mercedes.—Associated Press writer Steve Gutterman in Moscow contributed to this report.