ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday called on Arab governments to deploy troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State group, describing the conflict against extremism as a "Third World War".
Sarkozy's tough talk comes as the political survivor sets his eyes on another bid for the presidency in 2017. Sarkozy, who leads the conservative party The Republicans and was France's president in 2007-2012, is considered among the favorites to win the party's primary in November, his main rival being former Prime Minister Alain Juppe.
Speaking at a policy center in the United Arab Emirates, Sarkozy said the Nov. 13 attack on Paris that killed 130 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group showed "there can be no such thing as a compromise between us and them."
"I would describe this as a Third World War," he said before adding there can be nothing short of a "total annihilation of extremists, jihadists and terrorists."
"We have to wage a total war and wage it now," Sarkozy said. "We need to wipe these savages from the face of the earth."
Sarkozy spoke in front of a packed audience in the UAE, which has helped lead a crackdown against opposition Islamists throughout the region and is part of the Saudi-led war in Yemen against Iranian-allied Shiite rebels and a member of the U.S.-led coalition striking IS fighters in Syria and Iraq.
France has been one of the most active members of the American-led coalition striking the IS where it holds territory in both Iraq and Syria.
But Sarkozy said airstrikes against extremist groups in Syria and Iraq are not enough.
"We need to strike from the air, but also occupy from the soil," he said and urged "Arab powers" to stage a ground intervention.
He also lauded France's close business, military and strategic ties with Gulf Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Sarkozy, who staunchly opposes Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining in power and who rallied NATO into aiding the overthrow of Libya's longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, said conflicts in the Middle East are "very much" Europe's concern.
"There will be no peace north of the Mediterranean if there is no peace south of the Mediterranean," said the former French president, who has also been known for his tough anti-immigration stance.