UN-ASSEMBLY/SARKOZY-GEORGIA

SEPTEMBER 23 2008 18:51h

France To Russia: Force Unacceptable In Disputes

France

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`Europe`s message to all states is that it cannot accept the use of force to settle a dispute,` Sarkozy said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday in the wake of Russia's war with Georgia that Europe wanted good ties with Moscow but warned it that force cannot be used to settle disputes.

"What Europe is telling Russia is that we want links with Russia, that we want to build a shared future with Russia, we wanted to be Russia's partner," he told the U.N. General Assembly.

"Europe is also telling Russia ... it cannot compromise on the principle of states' sovereignty and independence, their territorial integrity, or respect for international law," said Sarkozy, who is presiding over France's presidency of the European Union.

Russia invaded Georgia last month to thwart an attempt by the Georgian military to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which, like another Georgian rebel area, Abkhazia, broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.

Sarkozy brokered a cease-fire to end the conflict, although the United States and EU countries have sharply criticized Russia for what they described as its excessive use of force.

"Europe's message to all states is that it cannot accept the use of force to settle a dispute," he said.

On the topic of Iran's nuclear program, Sarkozy reiterated that Europeans would never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, "which would endanger the peace and stability of an entire region, nor can it tolerate Iran calling for the destruction of ... Israel."

He told reporters that Paris fully supported a fourth round of sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend its nuclear enrichment program, but acknowledged that western powers would need Russia's support to pass a new U.N. sanctions resolution.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said Israel should be wiped off the map, will address the General Assembly later on Tuesday.

Tehran denies Western allegations that it is seeking nuclear weapons.