Sarkozy Takes Tough Stance Against Ahmadinejad

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS — President Sarkozy of France would refuse to shake the hand of the Iranian president, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, the French leader told reporters today at the United Nations. At a press conference shortly after delivering a speech at the opening debate of the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Sarkozy added that President al-Assad of Syria could be used to exert a positive influence on Iran.

Although Mr. Sarkozy’s sentiment toward President Ahmadinejad was shared by several Western heads of state, his suggestion that Mr. Assad be utilized was less welcome. “A few nations, regimes like Syria and Iran, continue to sponsor terror. Yet their numbers are growing fewer, and they are growing more isolated in the world,” President Bush told the General Assembly after listing countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan that either have renounced their support of terror or actively pursue terrorists.

Mr. Sarkozy visited Damascus earlier this month, ending a long French boycott of negotiations with the Syrian president in the aftermath of the 2005 assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, a friend of Mr. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac. Mr. Sarkozy has emerged, however, as one of the leading European voices speaking out against Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian president is expected to address the General Assembly later this afternoon and hold a press conference afterward. Since his arrival here yesterday, he has made several disparaging remarks about America and Israel in interviews with the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio.

“Mr. Ahmadinejad calls on the world to return to the age of darkness,” President Peres of Israel said on arriving at the United Nations today. “We never said we would wipe any nation off the map,” he told reporters, referring to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s oft-quoted remarks on Israel. Referring to Iran, the Israeli president added, “If you want to drain the swamp where the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, you must put an end to the high price of oil. As Kissinger said, ‘If the sellers organize, so should the customers.'”

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