RIYADH - Important questions have not been settled and "there remains work to do" before a final deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.
|‘France hopes for a solid and verifiable agreement’
"What has been concluded is positive," Fabius said in Saudi Arabia, of the framework agreement reached early this month between Tehran and six major powers including France.
It marked a major breakthrough in a 12-year standoff between Iran and the West, which fears Tehran wants to build an atomic bomb. Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
In exchange for limits on Iran's nuclear capabilities the accord would lift international sanctions. A final deal is to be reached by June 30.
There must be "no possible military dimension" and there remains also the question of sanctions -- their lifting, or re-establishment if Iran violates its commitments, Fabius said at a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
"These two questions are not settled and there remains work to do," Fabius said.
"France hopes for a solid and verifiable agreement."
Saudi Arabia fears that if too much of Iran's nuclear programme is left intact Tehran will still have the ability to obtain an atomic bomb, and there are concerns that Riyadh could seek its own nuclear capability.
"We agree in saying that a final pact must be clear so that nothing is hidden and that the Gulf remains free of all weapons of mass destruction," Saud said.
Fabius was in Riyadh on Sunday to express support for Saudi Arabia's battle against Iran-backed rebels in neighbouring Yemen.
"Concerning Yemen, we are here to demonstrate our support, especially political, to the Saudi authorities," Fabius told reporters as he began a series of meetings with the Saudi leadership including King Salman.
The kingdom, an important ally of France, leads a coalition of nine Arab countries which since March 26 has carried out air strikes against the Huthi Shiite rebels who overran the capital Sanaa in September.
Riyadh feared the rebels would take over the entire country and move it into the orbit of Shiite Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia's regional rival.
The Huthis, allied with army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been fighting forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to the Saudi capital Riyadh late last month.
Paris, like Riyadh and Washington, considers Hadi as leader of the legitimate government of Yemen, which had supported a United States drone war against Al-Qaeda fighters there.
"It will be necessary, at one moment or another, to hold talks" for a political solution, Fabius said.
The US says it has stepped up weapons deliveries in support of the Saudi-led coalition, is providing aerial and satellite intelligence, and airborne tankers for refuelling coalition aircraft.
Paris has not so far declared anything other than political support for the Saudi-led coalition.
Iran has dismissed as "utter lies" accusations that it has armed the rebels, and its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the coalition's "criminal acts" against the Huthis must end.
Fabius arrived on Saturday night and was to depart later on Sunday.