Sarkozy hints at Nato reunion

France would consider playing a full part in Nato providing it was given a major role, President Nicolas Sarkozy said today.

He said America also had to accept that Europe needed a separate defence force and take a harder line against Iran’s nuclear plans.

In an interview with The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, before attending tomorrow’s UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Sarkozy said “France can only resume its place if room is made” for French officials.

He added: “I would make progress on European defence a condition for moving into the integrated command, and I am asking our American friends to understand that.”

Mr Sarkozy has insisted that the European Union must be independent and able to defend itself, not withstanding its role in Nato.

France has been a Nato member since it was founded in 1949, but president Charles de Gaulle pulled out of its military structure in 1966, refusing to put troops under Nato command or have Nato bases as he sought to reassert French international independence.

Iran will be a crucial topic at the UN Assembly, and Mr Sarkozy is pushing for stronger sanctions.

Tougher sanctions “eventually will produce results”, he was quoted as saying.

The US and others suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons under cover of using reactors to produce electricity. Two rounds of UN sanctions have failed to end the deadlock.

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