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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French Foreign Minister Talks Down Iran Sanctions

MOSCOW — France's foreign minister sounded a cautious note Thursday on the possibility of new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, saying sanctions were not being discussed at an international meeting with Iran in Geneva.

Bernard Kouchner's remarks ahead of meetings with Russian officials were in line with suggestions that global powers — who fear the military implications of Iran's nuclear program — want to focus on talks and give Iran a chance to end years of defiance.

"I'm no fanatic about sanctions," Kouchner told Ekho Moskvy radio, speaking though an interpreter. He said sanctions can sometimes be useful and suggested that they cannot be ruled out but added that "we are not yet talking about sanctions. In Geneva, we are not talking about sanctions."

Representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council members — Russia, France, Britain, the United States and China — as well as Germany were meeting in Geneva with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator to press their demands that Iran disclose all its nuclear activities and halt uranium enrichment.

Kouchner and French Defense Minister Herve Morin were meeting with their Russian counterparts, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, for talks on security issues. They were also expected to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev.

The visit was previously scheduled and the agenda was broad, but both sides said it included Iran's nuclear program. 
The United States and its Western allies have made clear that if the talks with Iran fail, they will renew their push for a fourth set of UN Security Council sanctions.

Russia backed the three previous measures, but used its clout in the council — along with China — to oppose tougher proposals supported by the United States. Medvedev last week opened the door to Russian support for tougher sanctions, but he and other Russian officials have stressed that diplomatic efforts must be exhausted first.

The Russian-French meeting came a day after the release of an EU-commissioned report on last year's war between Russia and Georgia, which ended after five days with a cease-fire brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the European Union.

In his radio interview, Kouchner said there were "many provocations on both sides" that contributed to the conflict and claimed that Russia has not completely fulfilled the terms of the cease-fire.

"The Russians occupied territories that are not theirs and continue to do so," he said, according to the interpreter, referring to Russian forces that remain in South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia. 
Russia has recognized the two regions as independent nations.

"One should not adjust borders … through war," Kouchner said, urging Russia to allow EU monitors into the two breakaway regions.