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Published: Saturday July 19, 2014 MYT 7:05:02 PM
Updated: Saturday July 19, 2014 MYT 7:05:02 PM

France says Iran faces crucial choices as nuclear talks extended

CAIRO (Reuters) - France said on Saturday it hoped the extension on nuclear talks between the West and Iran would convince Tehran to make the "indispensable choices" needed to reach a long term deal, but warned that major differences still remained.

Iran and six powers agreed to continue talking for four more months after failing to meet a July 20 deadline to reach a deal on curbing the Iranian nuclear programme in exchange for ending sanctions, enabling Tehran to access $2.8 billion of frozen cash.

"France hopes that this new deadline will allow Iran to make indispensable choices that we are expecting in order to reach a long-term, credible and lasting agreement," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement during a visit to Egypt.

France argues that Iran must drop its demands to have thousands of centrifuges for uranium enrichment if it wants a lasting deal with major powers over its disputed nuclear programme.

Asked whether he thought that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would be able to deliver a deal by November, Fabius told Reuters that serious obstacles remained.

"What I can say is that he wants an agreement and in the discussions we saw some progress, most notably on the Arak reactor," he said after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, referring to a heavy water reactor under construction.

"But there are still a certain number of points, especially enrichment, where there is no agreement and also all of its (the nuclear programme) activities must be put under the control of the IAEA."

Fabius said earlier that Iran was expected to cooperate with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.

"What we can say is that there have been some advances towards finding an agreement, that's why we decided to extend the negotiations," Fabius said. "If we had thought there was no potential for a deal, we would have stopped immediately."

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