US, France cite concerns about Iran nuclear talks

Updated: 2014-11-06 10:37


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US, France cite concerns about Iran nuclear talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the media at the US Ambassador's residence in Paris November 5, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

US, France cite concerns about Iran nuclear talks

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PARIS - With time running out on the latest round of negotiations, France and the United States on Wednesday stepped up demands for Iran to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful - or risk scuttling the closest chance for a deal in years and losing a chance to ease crippling sanctions on Tehran's economy.

The entreaty to Iran comes days before US Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet with top diplomats to Iran and the European Union to discuss how to break the years-long deadlock before a Nov. 24 deadline. Iran is seeking global recognition for its right to generate nuclear power - which it says it will use for energy, medical and other benign purposes _ and the removal of at least some Western penalties against its oil and financial sectors.

But much of the rest of the world fears that Tehran, which has hindered fully transparent inspections of its reactors over the years, wants to build an atomic weapon.

"We have presented to them a framework that would allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs," President Barack Obama said Wednesday. "Whether they can manage to say yes to what clearly would be better for Iran, better for the region, and better for the world, is an open question."

In Paris, Kerry met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and placed the burden to complete a deal on Iran.

"They have a right to a peaceful program but not a track to a bomb," Kerry said after his meeting. "We believe it is pretty easy to prove to the world that a plan is peaceful."

Fabius called it "very important" for the US and France to keep a united front as the negotiations enter the final stretch.

The French diplomat's comments underscored concerns that Washington could change course on its diplomacy with Iran after Jan. 1, when Republicans will control both houses of Congress. Many Republican leaders have criticized the Obama administration's desire to ease sanctions on Iran while the talks are underway, or to embrace any agreement that would allow Tehran to continue generating nuclear power.

If that's the case, the November deadline may represent the last shot the White House will get at securing a deal with Iran _ a major foreign policy legacy issue for Obama. But Obama also said that internal politics in Iran could also affect the negotiations.

"They have their own politics and there's a long tradition of mistrust between the two countries," he said. "And there's a sizable portion of the political elite that, you know, cut its teeth on anti-Americanism and still finds it convenient to blame America for every ill that there is."

Kerry dismissed questions about whether the GOP's command of Congress would derail the nuclear deal, and said the same sticking points would remain no matter which US political party was in power. "I don't believe that changes either side," he said. "I honestly don't."

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