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Iraq Transition

Chirac urges no sanctions on Iran

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PARIS, France (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac has said he believes a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis can be found without resorting to U.N. sanctions.

"I believe that dialogue still is open ... there is a lot more potential to dialogue and I would like us to go the end of that particular road before we decide to go any further in any other direction," Chirac told CNN in an exclusive interview.

The U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran suspend it uranium enrichment program by August 31 or face the possibility of economic sanctions. Iran missed that deadline but has said it would consider temporarily suspending its program as a condition for beginning talks with the United States.

The U.S., which has refused to rule out military action against Iran, last week said it was doubtful Tehran's latest offer was serious.

Diplomats from the five permanent members of the Security Council, along with Germany, are to meet during this week's General Assembly session in New York to consult about a sanctions resolution.

Chirac said thy although international efforts to urge Iraq to comply had so far failed to bear fruit, he believed that negotiations remained the way forward.

"I remain convinced that dialogue is the only way that we can come up with a positive result," he said.

"And I very much hope that we will be bale to come up with a solution that will enable us to avoid any sort of conflict.

"I am always and have always been favorable to a negotiated solution. I believe that dialogue still is open ... there is a lot more potential to dialogue and I would like us to go the end of that particular road before we decide to go any further in any other direction. I very much hope that dialogue will get us out of this crisis and I believe it will."

Speaking on Iraq, Chirac said his country was willing to work alongside the United States to bring an end to conflict.

He said that although his original objections to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which drove a wedge between Franco-American relations, had been borne out by spiraling violence, Paris would heed appeals for assistance from Washington.

Asked if France could help the United States in Iraq or aid with its withdrawal from the war-ravaged country, Chirac said: "If the United States and President Bush asks me ... indeed .. asks me any question on this topic, well of course I will welcome anything he asks and I will answer him."

The French president said that while Iraq's future depended on offering support and guidance to its prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, he remained as gloomy about the country's prospects as he was in 2003.

"I adopted a stance on Iraq and I have to say that the way things panned out, it certainly didn't go against the stance I took. What I said has been borne out and I remain very pessimistic about Iraq and its future."

Chirac said that while he backed Bush's view that there was genocide taking place in the Sudanese region of Darfur, he favored a measured diplomatic approach to resolving three years of conflict that have led to the displacement of up to two million people.

"I have the gravest fears with respect to Darfur where the rainy season is coming to an end. People are going to be on the move once again and I'm very much afraid that we may see millions of displaced persons and possibly even hundreds of thousands dead as we have seen in the past.

"I am entirely on the same wavelength as President Bush in this connection I would like to make a solemn appeal to all countries and in particular to the president of Sudan to accept the mediation of the U.N.."

President Jacques Chirac was interviewed by CNN's Jim Bittermann


President Jacques Chirac speaks to CNN's Jim Bittermann.

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