Sarkozy says France does not want Iran war

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PARIS, Sep 20 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today he did not want a war with Iran over its nuclear programme but repeated that it would be unacceptable for Tehran to obtain an atom bomb.

France has taken a tougher stance against Tehran since Sarkozy came to power in May. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said at the weekend the world should ''prepare for the worst'' over Iran, adding: ''The worst is war''.

Kouchner has since tried to play down his comments and Sarkozy told French television today he hoped a mix of negotiations and sanctions would persuade Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions.

''Iran is trying to get a nuclear bomb. I have said this is unacceptable and I tell the French people that it is unacceptable,'' he said in a live interview. ''It is an extremely difficult affair, but France does not want war.'' France is looking to increase the pressure on Tehran by imposing fresh economic sanctions on Iran and is trying to convince other EU countries to force their companies to boycott the country.

''If the sanctions at the moment are not sufficient, then I would like stronger sanctions.'' France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China are due to meet tomorrow to discuss a possible third round of UN sanctions against Iran for atomic work that could potentially be used to make nuclear weapons.

Iran denies charges it is secretly seeking nuclear weapons.

It says it wants only to master nuclear technology to generate electricity.

REUTERS AK BST0113

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