In a powerful line, the French president pointed out: "It is the same leaders in Iran who say that the nuclear programme is peaceful and that the elections were honest. Who can believe them?" He went on to say that he thought tougher sanctions would have to be discussed if Tehran does not change its position.
But the speech was boilerplate Sarkozy – expansive, energetic, and ambitious. Highlights included an exultation at the “return of the state” as a result of the financial crisis and a need to further tame markets, starting at the planned G20 meeting in Pittsburg. But the G20 was not the right forum. Instead, Sarkozy said the Group of Eight should be extended to include China, Brazil, India, South Africa, Mexico and Egypt, making it the Group of 14. He also called for dethroning the dollar, a view unlikely to go down well at the Federal Reserve and US Treasury.
But the initiatives did not stop there. Monsieur Sarkozy called for a World Environment Organisation to implement a would-be climate treaty agreed in Copenhagen and reform of the International Labour Organisation to ensure that the power of WTO “is balanced by environmental and labour global lobbies.”
President Sarkozy’s relationship with Mrs Merkel has not, of course, always been easy and the replacement of the Germonophile French Europe Minister Bruno Le Maire with the more Atlanticist Pierre Lellouche a few months ago was seen by many as heralding a change of policy. But the speech to the ambassadors makes clear that the French leader wants to rev up the Franc-German motor first started by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer in 1963. Where that leaves Britain is anyone’s guess.