US, France ‘on same page’ over Iran, want stronger deal

PARIS (Reuters) – The United States and France sought yesterday to play down any disagreements over nuclear talks with Iran, saying they both agreed the accord now under discussion needed to be strengthened.

“We are on the same page,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris. “If we didn’t think that there was further to go, as Laurent said, we’d have had an agreement already,” Kerry added.

“The reason we don’t have an agreement is, we believe there are gaps that have to be closed. There are things that have to be done to further strengthen this. We know this.”

The aim of the negotiations is to persuade Iran to restrain its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy. Iran, a major oil exporter, wants the sanctions scrapped swiftly, the powers only in phases.

France’s Fabius said on Friday commitments offered by Iran in the nuclear talks with six world powers do not go far enough and more work needed to be done, notably on what he called “volume, checks and duration”.

Yesterday, he made clear that by volume he meant the number and quality of centrifuges Iran might be allowed to operate under any deal. By checks, he meant an inspection and verification regime to ensure Iran does not violate the deal.

“There is still work to be done,” said Fabius, who was also hosting his British, German and EU counterparts in Paris.

France, a UN Security Council veto-holder, has long held out for strict terms, linking any loosening of international sanctions on Iran’s oil-based economy to commitments by Tehran to demonstrate that its nuclear work is as peaceful as it says.

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