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Hollande in Israel says France firm on Iran nuclear issue

Last Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 - 10:34

Jerusalem: France will never tolerate nuclear proliferation, President Francois Hollande vowed on Sunday as he arrived in Israel for a visit dominated by the dispute over Iran`s nuclear programme.

Hollande also made clear that the peace process was high on his agenda, saying France expected "gestures" from Israel over its construction of settlements in a bid to advance peace talks with the Palestinians.

France, and other major powers, held marathon talks with Iran in Geneva last weekend seeking to convince Tehran to freeze or curb its nuclear activities in exchange for some sanctions relief.

Israel expressed concern over the talks and warned Western powers against concessions, saying they will get a better deal if they keep the crippling sanctions in place or ratchet them up.

Hollande`s visit, the first since he became president in 2012, will also see him travel to the Palestinian territories to discuss the peace talks which have limped along for three months with little signs of progress.

With his ratings flatlining back home, Hollande will also use his three-day trip to try to boost trade with Israel, which stood at 2.3 billion euros (USD 3 billion) in 2011.

Even before leaving the tarmac of Israel`s Ben Gurion airport, Hollande addressed the question of Iran`s disputed nuclear programme, which Israel views as its greatest threat.

"France considers nuclear proliferation to be a menace, a danger, and in Iran particularly -- a menace to Israel, to the region and clearly a menace to the entire world," he said.

"This is why France will not tolerate nuclear proliferation. And for France, as long as we are not certain that Iran has decided to give up on nuclear weapons, we will continue with all our demands and with sanctions."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later said he was "gravely concerned" that a deal between Iran and major powers will go through.

First Published: Monday, November 18, 2013 - 10:34

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