French President Francois Hollande smiles during a meeting with presidents of the French Regional Councils
French President Francois Hollande smiles during a meeting with presidents of the French Regional Councils at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. France joined a chorus of nations urging a peaceful solution to the Iran nuclear crisis Wednesday, as Hollande urged Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to favour diplomacy. © Francois Mori - AFP/Pool
French President Francois Hollande smiles during a meeting with presidents of the French Regional Councils
AFP
Last updated: September 13, 2012

Hollande urges Israel to favour diplomacy with Iran

France joined a chorus of nations urging a peaceful solution to the Iran nuclear crisis Wednesday, as French President Francois Hollande urged Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to favour diplomacy.

Hollande made the comments in a telephone conversation with Israel's prime minister Wednesday, his office said.

Hollande stressed France's determination that Iran should suspend its controversial nuclear programme and respect UN Security Council resolutions on the issue, said the statement.

Netanyahu's line on the issue of Iran's nuclear programme has become noticeably sharper in recent days.

Over the past week, the Israeli leader has repeatedly driven home the need to draw a "clear red line" for Iran and make clear the consequences of crossing it, in what was widely interpreted as a criticism of Washington.

On Tuesday, he insisted that the international community could not ask Israel to keep waiting before acting against Iran if it had not laid down red lines to Tehran over its nuclear programme.

"The world tells Israel: Wait, there's still time. And I say: wait for what? Wait until when?," Netanyahu said.

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama called Netanyahu to discuss the issue.

"It was a good phone conversation," Mark Regev, spokesman for Netanyahu told AFP Wednesday.

"The president and the prime minister agreed to work together. The common goal is to stop Iran's nuclear weapon program."

A US statement Tuesday said there was no rift over how to handle Iran, but left the impression Obama was irked at Netanyahu's rhetoric on a key foreign policy crisis weighing on his re-election hopes.

Netanyahu late Wednesday spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and "thanked him for his decision to expel Iranian diplomats from his country and to withdraw Canada's representatives from Iran," the Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement.

"Your decision constitutes an example of leadership and morality. It is an example of the correct message that the international community needs to send to Iran," the prime minister said.

A British newspaper reported Wednesday that the head of Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 had visited Israel to warn Netanyahu against military action on Iran.

The Daily Mail said that John Sawers had gone to Israel around two weeks ago with a message from Prime Minister David Cameron urging Netanyahu to allow more time for a diplomatic solution.

Britain's Foreign Office, which has overall responsibility for MI6, said it would not comment on intelligence matters.

Russia and China on Wednesday joined Western powers in rounding on Iran at the UN atomic agency following the watchdog's latest damning report and the escalating spat between Israel and Washington.

The US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany managed after days of haggling to hammer out a resolution criticising Tehran, at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors in Vienna.

Israel, the Middle East's sole, if undeclared, nuclear power, says a nuclear Iran would constitute an existential threat for the Jewish state and has refused to rule out a military strike to prevent it from gaining such a capability.

Washington and much of the West also believe Iran is seeking a weapons capability under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge which Tehran denies.

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