Sarkozy advises against military strike on Iran

PARIS (AP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy says a military strike is not the way to deal with a nuclear threat from Iran.

Sarkozy was speaking Wednesday at the annual dinner honoring France's Jewish community.

He says Israel is a "miracle" and that "France will not compromise on its security." At the same time, he added, "The solution is never military."

Sarkozy also says it is "unacceptable" for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons as the international community fears it aims to do — despite Tehran's denials.

Israel considers Iran a threat and has not ruled out military action against sites in Iran suspected of working to build arms.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PARIS (AP) — President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist candidate leading the race to unseat him in upcoming elections attended an annual dinner Wednesday honoring France's Jewish community in a rare joint appearance.

The dinner hosted by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France has become a can't-miss date on the French political calendar. It is generally attended by prominent Roman Catholic and Muslim figures as well as leading members of France's large Jewish community.

Sarkozy hasn't announced his candidacy for elections in April and May but is widely expected to seek a second term. He was giving a speech at the dinner, also attended by Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

The gala affair offered a rare moment in which top officials of France's two leading parties, Sarkozy's UMP and Hollande's Socialists, came together under one roof.

In his dinner address at a meeting hall in the Bois de Boulogne park, on Paris' western rim, Richard Prasquier, the head of the Jewish umbrella group known as CRIF, its French acronym, said the group was "proud" to host "men and women whose opinions diverge and some of whom will battle in universal suffrage."

Prasquier wasted no time in taking aim at France's far-right party, the National Front, and its planned presidential nominee Marine Le Pen, noting that on a commemoration date last month for the Holocaust, she spent it fraternizing with "racist pan-Germanic brotherhoods," a reference to a far-right Vienna ball she attended.

He said flatly: "We will not vote for the National Front."

On international affairs, Prasquier said that CRIF was "taken aback" by the support that France — under Sarkozy's government — expressed for the successful Palestinian bid for membership in Paris-based UNESCO last year.

Hollande, whose positions on international politics are not well known, tops opinion polls ahead of the vote amid worries about France's dragging economy and disillusionment with Sarkozy's presidency.

The dinner traditionally has been a time when CRIF announces the number of anti-Semitic attacks it counted in the previous year. Prasquier said they fell 16 percent to 389 in 2011.

Nonetheless, Prasquier said the figures last year pointed to "a very entrenched anti-Semitic foundation" in France. He also praised the role of Sarkozy's government in freeing long-time Gaza captive Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier.

Schalit has maintained a low-profile since his release from captivity in Gaza in October in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Schalit, who has both French and Israeli citizenship, made an unusual public appearance by meeting with Sarkozy at the presidential palace along with Schalit's parents.

The couple also attended the CRIF dinner, without their son. Hamas-allied militants captured Schalit in a 2006 cross-border raid, and his plight captured Israel's attention for years.

Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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