France has provided the first details about unresolved issues in the high-stakes Geneva negotiations between Iran and world powers trying to curb the Iranian nuclear program.
In an interview with France Inter Radio, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Iran is resisting demands to suspend work on its plutonium-producing reactor in the western city of Arak.
Speaking Saturday, Fabius said another matter of dispute is a demand by the major powers for Iran to reduce the purity of some of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. He made the comments as senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, held a third day of talks with Iran in Geneva.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons. They fear any plutonium produced by Iran also could be reprocessed into weapons-grade material. Tehran insists its nuclear program is devoted only to generating electricity and for medical research.
Iran has long resisted demands by the U.N. Security Council to suspend enrichment. However, the new Iranian government that took office in July has suggested compromise is possible on the pace of its nuclear work, in return for an easing of international sanctions that have hobbled the Iranian economy.
Iranian news agencies have quoted senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi as saying the Geneva talks would end on Saturday, but that if no agreement is reached, another round of negotiations must be held at a later date.
Diplomats in Geneva said France appears to be making tougher demands on Iran than the other major powers, including the United States, Britain, Russia and China.
Earlier Saturday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the negotiations have made "very good progress," but that there are still important issues to resolve. Mr. Hague said it is too early to tell if a "successful conclusion" is imminent.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after Friday's session that "some important gaps" remain in the talks, but that the parties are "working hard."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov joined the negotiations on Saturday, and China has sent its deputy foreign minister, Baodong Li, to Geneva.
U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , who is deeply skeptical about the negotiations. The White House said Mr. Obama stressed that he if fully committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons
Earlier Friday, Mr. Netanyahu reacted angrily to indications that the Western powers are moving closer to an agreement with Iran. Speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting with Kerry in Tel Aviv, the Israeli prime minister said Iran "got everything and paid nothing" because it is not reducing its enrichment capability.
"Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal," Mr. Netanyahu said. "This is a very bad deal, and Israel utterly rejects it."
VOA correspondents covering the Geneva talks report that any deal reached in Geneva would be only a first step. If an agreement with Iran lifts any sanctions, diplomats note those restrictions could be reimposed and potentially strengthened if the deal collapses.