Major world powers should set a December deadline for talks with Iran to bear fruit before moving ahead with new sanctions, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a television interview on Wednesday.
The UN Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment program, which many countries suspect is aimed at developing an atomic bomb. Iran has refused, but has agreed to hold broad talks with six big powers on Oct. 1.
Speaking from New York, Sarkozy said dialogue with Iran was not going well, adding: "There will be a deadline, which in my mind is the month of December."
He also gave a speech at the UN General Assembly, in which he warned Iran it risked a "tragic mistake" if it banked on the world remaining passive as it pursues its nuclear program.
"I would like to say to the Iranian leaders that, if they are relying on the passive response of the international community in order to pursue their military nuclear program, they are making a tragic mistake," Sarkozy said in his speech.
France, along with other members of the UN Security Council and Germany, is due to meet with Iran next month to discuss its nuclear program, which Western powers fear is geared toward producing weapons but which Tehran says is aimed at peaceful uses.
Sarkozy, who has been one of the harshest critics of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also dismissed a suggestion from Tehran that Paris should accept a prisoner swap to secure the release of a French teaching assistant charged with spying.
"No. This is blackmail," Sarkozy said.
Clotilde Reiss is on bail and staying in the French embassy in Tehran pending a verdict in a mass trial where she has been accused of aiding an alleged Western plot following Iran's disputed presidential election in June.
In an interview with France 2 television aired on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad suggested that France could release Iranian prisoners here if it wanted to help Reiss.
He did not name any prisoners, but the highest profile Iranian detainee in France is Ali Vakili Rad, who was found guilty in 1994 of the 1991 murder of Shapour Bakhtiar, who had served as prime minister under the former Shah of Iran.
"Clotilde Reiss is innocent," Sarkozy said. "Do you think that I am someone who would swap the murderer of Shapour Bakhtiar for a young French student whose only crime is to speak the Iranian language and love Persian civilization?"