France and Chad must find a way to save their relations after charges of kidnapping were leveled against six French charity workers for trying to fly 103 children out of Chad.
The workers for Zoe's Ark "were wrong to do what they did," Sarkozy said during a visit to the French island of Corsica.
Paris "condemns these activities," Sarkozy said he told Chadian President Idriss Deby in a phone call.
"We are going to try to find agreement so that no one in this affair loses face," the French president said without elaborating.
The affair must be untangled, the president added.
"Why were these children picked up and to what end? That's what we must know now," Sarkozy said.
The six risk up to 20 years in prison with hard labor based on the charges filed late Monday of kidnapping and fraud. Three others - two working journalists and a third reportedly in Chad for personal reasons - were charged with complicity, along with a seven-member Spanish crew of a charter plane.
Human Rights Minister Rama Yade said that France "won't abandon" the French citizens.
Still, the sentiment in Paris was mixed.
"French authorities (in Chad) and, it seems, Chadian authorities were abused by an organization which hid behind a false identity to obtain the authorizations and transport needed to bring out the children," Fillon said.
Fillon was referring to the group's use of the name Children Rescue while working in Chad.