French President Francois Hollande has reassured Israel about the possibility of easing up sanctions on Iran. He said this would only happen if it was clear that Tehran had given up aspirations of nuclear weapons.
Hollande, who is in Israel on a 48-hour trip, issued the statement shortly after his plane landed in Tel Aviv.
"As long as we do not have the certainty that Iran has renounced nuclear weapons, we will maintain our requirements and the sanctions," the French president said.
"France will not yield on nuclear proliferation," he added.
Hollande's trip comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been waging a very public campaign against what he describes as a "bad deal" between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. This deal would see economic sanctions against Tehran relaxed in return for assurances about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.
"I hope that we will succeed in convincing our friends this week, and the days after, to reach a much better deal," Netanyahu told a meeting of his cabinet on Sunday. He also called for the sanctions against Iran to be maintained or even stepped up, saying this promised to bring a "much better" outcome than negotiating with Tehran.
Netanyahu is expected to deliver that message personally to two other permanent members of the Security Council, when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Friday.
On Sunday, Netanyahu used a joint press conference with Hollande to try to drive the point home.
"I'm concerned, gravely concerned, that this deal will go through and in one stroke of the pen, it will reduce the sanctions on Iran - sanctions that took years to put in place - and in return for this, Iran gives practically nothing," he said.
Earlier, Israeli President Shimon Peres used a meeting with Hollande in Jerusalem to praise France for what he described as its "steadfast" and "determined" stance in the negotiations with Iran, which are to resume in Geneva next week.
On Monday, Hollande is to travel on to the West Bank town of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, before returning to Jerusalem where he is to address the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
pfd/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
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