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Paris Echoes U.S. Hints At 'Progress' In Iran Nuclear Talks, Says 'Time Running Out'

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (file photo)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has expressed optimism over an eventual return to a hobbled nuclear deal with Iran but warned that "time is running out" on those international negotiations.

"I remain convinced we can reach a deal. Bits of progress have been made in the last few days," Le Drian told BFM TV and RMC Radio on January 7. "We have been heading in a positive direction in the last few days, but time is of the essence, because if we don't get an accord quickly there will be nothing to negotiate."

The United States, whose withdrawal from 2015's multiparty Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) three years ago led to renewed unilateral sanctions to pressure Iran's leadership, said this week that a round of talks begun on January 3 had seen "modest progress."

The talks restarted late last year after a pause accompanying the installation of a new, hard-line Iranian president last summer.

Tehran took steps to breach the JCPOA after the U.S. withdrawal and frustrated international inspection efforts more recently, and has insisted the United States lift its sanctions before it returns to a deal.

Western leaders urging a return to the deal have resisted specific deadlines but warned that there are "weeks not months" to hammer out an agreement to salvage the six-year-old agreement.

Iran has consistently rejected Israeli and Western accusations that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, even as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cited deception and obfuscation in the past by Tehran over sensitive nuclear activities.

Based on reporting by Reuters