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Sarkozy Vows Strong Nuclear Program, Cites Iran

French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Friday to maintain a strong nuclear weapons program as a defense against possible threats from Iran, amid minor cuts to the country's nuclear arsenal.

Speaking at the inauguration of France's fourth nuclear-armed submarine, Sarkozy said countries in Asia and the Middle East are trying to develop ballistic missile capabilities that would enable a missile to reach Europe in less than a half-hour. He stressed that France must remain vigilant.

"I am thinking in particular of Iran. Iran is increasing the range of its missiles while grave suspicions hang over its nuclear program. Europe's security is at stake," he said.


Warheads Will Be Cut

But Sarkozy also said nuclear stockpiles should be limited, and announced France would cut the number of warheads in its nuclear arsenal to fewer than 300.

He did not say how many warheads France has, but the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks nuclear arsenals around the world, puts the number at 348.

Sarkozy also called on the United States and China to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by France in 1996, and announced plans to propose a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

"I propose to launch without delay negotiations for a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and to impose an immediate moratorium on the production of these materials," Sarkozy said.


From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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