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Nuclear deal with Iran 'close', says France

France’s top diplomat said on Monday world powers were “not far” from striking a nuclear deal with Iran. His comment came after France blocked an initial accord, winning Paris praise from conservatives in Washington but sparking anger in Tehran.

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (pictured right) said on Monday that an agreement between Western powers and Iran to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme was “not far”, after he was the target of both praise and condemnation over negotiations that stalled over the weekend.

“We’re not far from an accord with the Iranians, but we’re not there yet,” Fabius told Europe 1 radio in Paris a day after negotiations that also included the United States, Britain, China and Germany ended in Geneva without a deal. “It’s obvious that there was progress, but it was not possible to go all the way.”

He added, “The negotiations continue. There is a text on the table that has been accepted, but there are two or three points that are still problematic.”

French dissension over the nuclear deal on Sunday was, in an ironic twist, praised by American conservatives.

“France had the courage to prevent a bad nuclear deal with Iran,” Republican Senator John McCain wrote on a social networking website. “Vive la France!”

Lindsey Graham, another Republican senator known for his hawkish views, also showered praise on France for blocking a deal. “Thank God for France and thank God for push back,” Graham told CNN’s State of the Union television show.

According to reports, France has said more controls were needed from Iran, such as assurances that the reactor under construction in the central city of Arak will not go online as planned by Tehran.

Looking for ‘enemies’

Meanwhile, Iranian leaders and the tightly controlled press lashed out at France for supposedly “sabotaging” the talks in Geneva.

“A wise man, particularly a wise politician, should never have the motivation to turn a neutral entity into an enemy,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by a Twitter account linked to his official website.

In light of French obstructionism, Iranian businessmen will “review their relations” with France and find “a more trustworthy partner”, the state-run Tehran Times reported on Monday.

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