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    French President Calls for Timed Troop Exit From Iraq

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy is calling for a clear timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, and says Iran's nuclear program is the most serious crisis facing the international community today.

    Mr. Sarkozy noted that France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. But he said his government is ready to help find a political solution to the conflict. His comments came in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office in May.

    Mr. Sarkozy also warned that his government is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He called a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable."

    He also said France will spare no effort to convince Tehran it has "much to gain" by engaging in serious talks with the West, China and Russia on scrapping its nuclear program.

    The president also reaffirmed the importance of good relations with the United States. But he said France is also free to disagree with U.S. policies.

    Separately, Mr. Sarkozy accused Russia of using its natural gas and oil wealth as leverage for making a comeback on the world economic and political stage.

    He also appeared to soften his stance on Turkey, saying France will not block negotiations between the European Union and Ankara over eventual Turkish membership in the 27-nation trade bloc. He recently said he did not believe Turkey should be granted full membership in the European organization.

    Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

     

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