Sarkozy calls for "severe sanctions" against Syria

Photo: Sarkozy calls for "severe sanctions" against Syria / Arab World

French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked the international community to impose sanctions against his Syrian counterpart Bachar al Assad but excluded the military option to stop the bloody clashes between protesters and Syrian government forces, according to an interview published by local media on Wednesday.

Speaking in an interview with the weekly magazine L'Express, the French head of state noted that "military intervention remains an exception" and "it can not be the rule", Xinhua reported .

"We will not accept a (political) regime which sends the army against peaceful demonstrators. However, it is not necessary, facing different political realities, to act every time with the same way," Sarkozy said, referring to military intervention.

"We must be lucid ... For Syria, we will act to adopt the most severe sanctions. This will be effective," he added.

Sarkozy denounced the use of live ammunition against demonstrators, stressing the eventual possibility to freeze bilateral relations between the two countries.

"Just look at a map to see that Syria is a major player in the Middle East. France gave a hand (to Syria) to contribute in stopping attacks in Lebanon ... But at the moment when he (al Assad) repressed his people into the bloodstream, the offered hand will be stopped," the French president said.

Calm in Syria was broken by an unprecedented anti-government protests, which erupted in Daraa six weeks ago and spread into other parts including capital Damascus.

Asked about the outlook of the deadlocked peace talks between Palestine and Israel, Sarkozy said the U.S. and Europe have to energize efforts to revive the peace process in the Middle East before the UN General Assembly scheduled in September.

"If the peace process resumed in the summer, France will say that it must let the protagonists discuss without pushing the schedule. If, the peace process remains stalled in September, France will assume its responsibilities on the central question of the recognition of a Palestinian state," the president stressed.

"The duty of Israel's friends is to tell it the truth. And the truth is that there will be no security for Israel without a democratic Palestinian state at its borders," he added.

The Palestinian authority pledged to ask in September the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Paris on Thursday to shed more light on the status-quo of peace talks particularly after the reconciliation between Fatah and Islamist Hamas movement, a move expected to hamper further talks according to the Israeli government.

Direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel were blocked sine 2008 after Israeli forces raid devastated Gaza strip in a bid to halt rocket fire from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.

In the interview, Sarkozy, in power since 2007, declined to comment on his possible candidacy for the presidential elections scheduled in May 2012.

"I am the last to be able to express any desire regarding the upcoming presidential election. I am president. I exercise the function, so I have a duty that others have not ... I'm not allowed to indulge in calculations for a so far term which is not yet in the head of the French," Sarkozy told l'Express.

"We must give French people a sufficient time to make their choice," he added.

In a previous report, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said "the president of the Republic will be a candidate for the presidential election."

The 56-year-old French leader came to power in 2007 after seizing a lead over the socialist Segolene Royal with 53 percent of the vote.

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