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      Hollande: Iran Must Give Up Nukes 'Forever'

      French President restates commitment forcefully after his meeting with President Peres.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 11/17/2013, 7:02 PM

      Peres with Hollande
      Peres with Hollande
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      French President Francois Hollande restated his absolute opposition to Iranian nuclear weapons Sunday evening, after meeting his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.

      "We will never accept Iran's possessing nuclear weapons,” said Hollande. “This is a threat to the security of Israel and a threat to the entire world. We want and seek an agreement with the Iranian leadership, because we believe that diplomacy is the preferable route. But a true agreement will be possible only if Iran gives up on nuclear weapons forever.”

      This was probably the most forceful statement on the subject Hollande has made until now.

      Earlier Sunday, when he arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, Hollande said "France considers nuclear proliferation to be a menace, a danger, and in Iran particularly – a menace to Israel, to the region and clearly a menace to the entire world," he told Israeli ministers and dignitaries lining the red carpet at Ben Gurion Airport in honor of his arrival.

      "This is why France will not tolerate nuclear proliferation," he added. "And for France, as long as we are not certain that Iran has decided to give up on nuclear weapons, we will continue with all our demands and with sanctions."

      Hollande landed in Israel Sunday for his first official visit to the Jewish state. The visit is to last three days, and Iran is likely to be the main issue under discussion in meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

      On Wednesday, the P5+1 powers, which include France, will resume negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. The powers were said to be close to finalizing a deal with Iran in the previous round of talks, but France's refusal to sign on to the proposed deal was crucial in preventing an agreement.

      Israel has warned that a partial agreement that gives Iran relief from economic sanctions without its agreeing to give up the capability to produce nuclear weapons is “a very bad deal.” The United States, which for decades was perceived as having similar interests to Israel's, appears ready to finalize an agreement that would make it possible for Iran to produce nuclear weapons at very short notice.

      While Congress is considering ratcheting up sanctions against Iran, US Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly urged senators to “ignore anything the Israelis say” on the matter. There are also reports that US President Barack Obama is not taking calls from Prime Minister Netanyahu.