Page last updated at 20:23 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 21:23 UK

Obama urges Iran to end dispute

Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Barack Obama at the Elysee Palace in Paris, 25 July 2008
Mr Sarkozy welcomed Mr Obama, saying French people loved Americans

White House hopeful Barack Obama has said Iran should not wait for the next US president to be elected before resolving its dispute with the West.

He was speaking during a joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, on his world tour ahead of November's US elections.

Mr Sarkozy said there was a "tremendous convergence" of views in their meeting.

Afterwards Mr Obama flew to London where he is due to meet senior British politicians on Saturday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, opposition Conservative leader David Cameron and the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, are all due to see him.

In Paris, the Illinois senator said Tehran should promptly accept an international call to freeze its "illicit nuclear programme".

Iran, he said, should not wait for the election of a new US president before accepting the proposals made by Mr Sarkozy and other Western leaders "because the pressure, I think, is only going to build".

Iran insists its nuclear campaign is peaceful.

Praise from Sarkozy

As well as Iran's nuclear programme, the two men discussed peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the improving security situation in Iraq and the positive role of French troops in Afghanistan.

Barack Obama says the world must send a clear message to Iran

The Democratic candidate thanked Mr Sarkozy for his long-standing commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship between France and the US.

"People in France and people in Europe should not underestimate how much interest there is in America in seeing the transatlantic relationship improving," said Mr Obama.

He was speaking after meeting the French president at the Elysee Palace.

French reporters have contrasted Mr Obama's hours-long stop-over in Paris to the long day he spent in Berlin on Thursday, where he met German leaders before making a speech in the central Tiergarten Park, a venue for big public festivities.

As in Germany, the presidential contender enjoys high public ratings in France.

Premature victory lap?

US Republican presidential hopeful John McCain met Mr Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace in March.

Unlike my diplomatic advisers, I never believed in Hillary Clinton's chances
Nicolas Sarkozy
French President

A spokesman for the Arizona senator has accused Mr Obama of turning his tour into a "premature victory lap".

Earlier, Mr Sarkozy said he had always believed his "friend" Mr Obama would clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Unlike my diplomatic advisers, I never believed in Hillary Clinton's chances," he told the French newspaper Le Figaro.

"He's my friend. I'm the only one in France who knows him."

The French leader said he had "a very good memory" of their first encounter at the US Congress in 2006.

Global challenges

In his speech in Berlin, Mr Obama said the US and Europe had "drifted apart and forgotten [their] shared destiny".


He warned that neither could afford to be isolated in the face of challenges such as terrorism and global warming.

"While the 20th Century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history," Mr Obama said.

"In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common.

"In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future," he added.

"But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together."

Mr Obama said partnership and co-operation among nations was "not a choice", but "the only way to protect our common security and advance our common humanity".

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