French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Iran on Thursday that its determination to press on with its controversial nuclear drive risked an Israeli strike that would be a "catastrophe."
Addressing the four-way summit in Damascus with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Sarkozy warned that Tehran risked a fourth round of UN sanctions over its failure to abide by international calls to freeze uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel but can also be used to build the core of a nuclear weapon.
Iran has consistently denied that its nuclear program is aimed at building an atomic bomb and says it wants only to generate energy for its growing population
On his part, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned that the security situation in Lebanon was "fragile" and urged Beirut to combat foreign-backed extremism in the north of the country.
"Anything positive in Lebanon would be worthless without a solution to the problem of extremism and (Sunni Islamist) salafists in northern Lebanon who are officially supported by some countries," he said, without naming them.
At least 23 people have been killed since violence erupted in May in Tripoli between backers of the Lebanese opposition led by the Shiite movement Hezbollah and Sunni supporters of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon’s parliament.
Assad said he had asked Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, the former army chief of staff who visited Damascus in mid-August, to "urgently send more troops to the north" of the country.
"The presence of the army is a must to tackle the problem. Lebanon will not see stability with the existence of extremism," he added.
Highlighting the Israel-Syria talks, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that a list of proposals has been sent to Israel via Turkish mediators aimed at laying the groundwork for direct peace talks between the two foes.
"We are awaiting Israel’s response to six points that we have submitted through Turkey," Assad said
Israel and Syria, which have technically remained in a state of war for 60 years, launched indirect negotiations brokered by Turkey in May; eight years after talks were frozen over the fate of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
A fifth round was due to be held on Sunday in Turkey but has been postponed because of what Assad said was the resignation of Israel’s negotiator.
Sarkozy, who wrapped up his landmark visit to Syria on Thursday, hailed the work of Turkey in mediating the talks and said France was set to give any help required for direct peace negotiations.
"I told Assad that if the Israelis accept the principles and the direct negotiations begin, France is ready to help diplomatically, politically, economically and militarily," he told the summit.
The key sticking point in the talks is the Golan, the strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 war with Arab states and annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized by the international community.
Sarkozy, whose country holds the revolving EU presidency, said on Wednesday he hoped France and the EU could rank alongside the United States as peacemakers in the Middle East.
However, the prospect of a bigger EU role in its peace negotiations with Syria has drawn little enthusiasm from Israel, which insisted there had to be a serious change in policy from Damascus if the process was to make progress.
(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)