France holds hard line on Iran talks
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A top French official said Saturday any final deal on Iran’s nuclear arms research must prevent Tehran from acquiring atomic weapons.
 
The Times of Israel reported French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated his nation’s insistence that Iran not develop nuclear bombs. If they did, he said it could trigger a disastrous arms race for similar weapons in the Middle East.
 
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“France wants an agreement, but a robust one that really guarantees that Iran can have access to civilian nuclear power, but not the atomic bomb,” Fabius said on Europe 1 radio Saturday.
 
“If the accord is not sufficiently solid then regional countries would say it’s not serious enough, so we are also going to get the nuclear weapon, and that would lead to an extremely dangerous nuclear proliferation,” he added.
 
Talks between Iran and the West halted Friday after the death of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s mother. The U.S. is leading the charge, with France, Britain, China, Germany and Russia on its side of the bargaining table.
 
The Obama administration hopes Tehran will stop or slow researching nuclear weapons in exchange for reducing economic sanctions. 
 
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, tweeted Saturday that any agreement was “fraudulent” without weaker financial penalties on his government.
 
“Lifting sanctions is a part of deal, not its outcome,” Khamenei tweeted.
 
That issue may have snagged momentum on the talks Friday, when President Obama and French President Francois Hollande disagreed in a phone call over the sanctions and their severity. 
 
France wants only a “symbolic easing” of sanctions on Iran. The Hollande administration believes anything less may encourage Iran that the price of attaining nuclear weapons is worth the cost.
 
A draft of a potential agreement reducing sanctions that was leaked Thursday said Iran would shrink its nuclear centrifuge supply to 6,000 units, down from the nearly 10,000 it has now. That number would remain capped for at least a decade.
 
The White House said Friday it believes it can reach a tentative deal with Iran by the end of the month.