Alexa

Syria, Iran key questions at French envoy meeting

Syria, Iran key questions at French envoy meeting

President Nicolas Sarkozy will lay out his diplomatic strategies for Iran, Syria and other key areas, in a speech to France's ambassadors Wednesday overshadowed by the uncertain plight of two Frenchwomen charged in Iran with fomenting unrest.
Sarkozy took a diplomatic risk in seeking Syria's help earlier this month in winning the release of French researcher Clotilde Reiss and embassy employee Nazak Afshar.
The gamble worked, at least partially: Afshar was released on bail, and France specifically thanked Syria for its help. Reiss, too, was released on bail, though neither can leave Iran pending a verdict. The women are among more than 100 people on a mass trial of pro-reform opposition supporters accused of trying to mount a "soft" revolution.
While details of Syria's gesture are scant, it comes amid signs of thaw with the West.
The U.S. lists Syria as a sponsor of terrorism, and Damascus has long been criticized in the West for its support of radical Palestinian groups and the militant Hezbollah in Lebanon.
But Sarkozy and President Barack Obama have sought to improve ties with Syria, which appears to be quietly seeking to improve its image in the West after years of isolation. Syria's assistance to former colonial ruler France was seen as a signal to the West that Damascus wants to help defuse tensions over Iran's postelection turmoil.
Iran, however, is keen on preventing Syria _ its closest Arab ally _ from migrating closer to the West.
Sarkozy is likely to address the Iranian political unrest and its nuclear programs in his diplomatic speech Wednesday.
The U.S. and its allies want Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce fuel for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
Sarkozy many also renew France's push for an international conference on Mideast peace, after his efforts to end Israeli offensive in Gaza earlier this year.
Sarkozy is likely to use the speech to press his ideas for increasing control over world markets to prevent another global financial crisis. Sarkozy plans to propose international rules on curbing banker bonuses and cracking down on tax havens at a summit of the Group of 20 leading rich and developing countries in Pittsburgh next month.