Sarkozy urges tougher Iran sanctions, warns French firms

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for tougher international sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program and warned French oil giant Total and gas firm Gaz de France to refrain from investing in Iran.

In an interview with The New York Times, published on the newspaper’s Web site late on Sunday, Sarkozy pointedly eschewed his foreign minister’s talk of preparing for war with Iran but said more pressure must be applied to make Tehran renounce its nuclear ambitions.

“It’s not true that there is no solution between surrender and war,” Sarkozy said, according to a text released by his office.

“Between surrender and war, there is a range of solutions that exist like the reinforcement of sanctions which will eventually have an effect,” he said, calling for a third U.N. resolution tightening economic restrictions on Tehran.

If the U.N. Security Council was unable to agree on another resolution, Sarkozy said he would support the European Union adopting additional sanctions.

The French leader, in New York to attend his first United Nations General Assembly session since his election in May, said he had urged Total and Gaz de France to refrain from bidding for new projects in Iran and told French banks to stop doing business there.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana played down French calls for the 27-nation bloc to consider its own sanctions against Iran, saying there had been no discussion of such an idea in the EU to date.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said last week he saw no prospect of the U.N. Security Council agreeing tougher measures on Iran because of Russian and Chinese resistance, so the Europeans should consider their own measures to hit credit, investment and insurance.

But Solana told reporters in New York, where he will attend the annual United Nations General Assembly session, that no such idea was on the EU’s agenda.

“That debate has not started for the moment in the EU. There has been one statement (by Kouchner) but I can tell you the EU as such has not started debating that issue. No country has put that kind of issue on the table,” he said.

Foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are due to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday to discuss how to apply further pressure on Tehran.

Russia and China have argued that there should be no third sanctions resolution while Iran is cooperating with the U.N. nuclear watchdog to clear up questions about its past nuclear program.

Asked about another round of sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters “the third track” was an invention “by the Americans and the French, not us.”

Washington and Paris argue that the process with the International Atomic Energy Agency should not be used to delay further action, since Iran continues to defy the Security Council by continuing with uranium enrichment.