updated 9/10/2009 2:08:17 PM ET 2009-09-10T18:08:17

The head of the French military said Thursday that military intervention is no longer a viable option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability.

French chief-of-staff Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin said following a speech that that he believes a military operation would be too risky.

"It is very difficult to plan a military operation in Iran, because we are not sure in one shot to be able to solve a problem and if you fail in one shot, it is a catastrophe," he said in English. "I don't think at this stage a military option is still available."

Georgelin was answering a question after a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington on France's new relationship with NATO and stressed that the comment was his opinion.

Georgelin was in the United States to attend a ceremony Wednesday as French Gen. Stephane Abrial become the first non-American officer to permanently fill a NATO command post. The new position followed France's decision this year to return to NATO's military command, a decision-making body within the U.S.-dominated alliance.

The frank military assessment on Iran appeared to go beyond recent public comments by French officials.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken a tougher line on Iran than his predecessor, and hitched himself closer to the American position. Sarkozy startled diplomatic circles when in 2007 he mentioned the possibility of military intervention. He said wanted to avoid "a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb, or the bombing of Iran" if diplomacy fails.

'War' an option, minister said
Soon afterward, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the world should "prepare for the worst" in Iran, specifically "war."

Since U.S. President Barack Obama took office in January, both Sarkozy and Kouchner have generally shied away from publicly discussing the prospect of war in Iran.

Georgelin said that he believes economic and political pressure will be more effective than military action in Iran.

"At this stage, my personal opinion is that for Iran I fear that the military option is probably beyond us and that the action should be as our president said several times in acting on financial pressure, economic pressure, political pressure," he said.

Georgelin also noted the importance of close coordination with Israel "in order not to let it strike alone with all the risks it could entail."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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