French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned that a military strike on Iran would "trigger war and chaos in the Middle East."
His comments come days ahead of a European Union debate on possible oil sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear program and with tensions seemingly escalating between Iran and the West.
"Let me share two of my convictions with you," Sarkozy said. "The first is that a military intervention would not solve the problem but it would unleash war and chaos in the Middle East and maybe, alas, even more than that. All must be done to avoid a military intervention."
Speaking to diplomats in Paris, Sarkozy said military intervention would not solve the problem of Iran's nuclear program, which Western powers suspect is aimed at making atomic weapons.
Iran denies the charge, but the UN atomic watchdog recently accused Iran
of carrying out work "specific to nuclear weapons."
Sarkozy said France "would do everything to avoid a military intervention, calling instead for "much stronger sanctions" against Tehran.
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to discuss fresh sanctions against Iran on January 23.
Speaking during an appearance at the Brookings Institution in Washington, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the bloc is united in its determination to confront Iran and intimated that an announcement would be made on the day of the summit.
"The European Union will put into place a new and very substantial round of sanctions this coming Monday [January 23]," he said, adding that this would "forcefully make the point that Iran's behavior on the nuclear issue is unacceptable and a danger to world peace."
Elsewhere, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that Iran should return to negotiations on its nuclear program or "or face increasing pressure and isolation."
Speaking in Washington on January 20 after a meeting with Guido Westerwelle, Clinton maintained that Iran is heading down a "dangerous path" with its pursuit of a nuclear program.
Clinton said the international community wants Tehran to show that it was serious about its recent statements indicating a willingness to return to the negotiating table.
"We all are seeking clarity about the meaning behind Iran's public statements that they are willing to engage, but we have to see a seriousness and sincerity of purpose coming from them," she said.
Also on January 20, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement in Brussels saying that a diplomatic solution remains open to Iran.
compiled from agency reports