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France, U.S. 'determined' to up pressure on Iran over ballistic weapons

U.S. Secreatry of States Rex Tillerson speaks with French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as they attend the Lebanon international Support Group meeting in Paris, France, December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

(reuters_tickers)

PARIS (Reuters) - France and the United States are determined to "vigorously" raise pressure on Iran over its ballistic missile programme, including possibly through sanctions, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a visit to Washington.

Le Drian was in the American capital on Monday to meet U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and U.S. President Donald Trump's special adviser Jared Kushner.

Tensions between Iran and France have risen in recent months with both sides repeatedly trading barbs in public, including le Drian accusing Iran of "hegemonic temptations" in the region.

Iran on Sunday criticised President Emmanuel Macron over his tough stance toward Tehran and said Paris would soon lose its international credibility if it "blindly follows" U.S. President Donald Trump.

"They didn't like the word, but I stand by it," le Drian told reporters. "Iran's hegemonic temptations in the region is a matter of urgency because it's within the framework of getting peace in Iraq and Syria that we will stop this process."

Iranian officials have been particularly aggrieved by France's criticism of its ballistic missile tests and suggestions of possible new sanctions over the programme, which Tehran calls solely defensive in nature.

Le Drian, who is due in Iran at the beginning of January, said he would tell them clearly of Paris' concerns.

"We are fully determined to press very vigorously on Iran to stop the development of an increasingly significant ballistic capability"," Le Drian said, reiterating that sanctions were possible.

Macron, unlike Trump, has reaffirmed his country's commitment to the deal Iran signed in 2015 with world powers under which it curbed its disputed nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions.

After talks with the U.S. officials, Le Drian said he believed that Washington was beginning to understand European messages on the need to maintain the accord.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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