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French Minister for the Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly delivers a speech after handing over the Strategic document on Defense and National Security to the French President at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Christophe Ena/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - France wants to take action to tackle Iran's missile programme and "destabilising" behaviour but believes scrapping the 2015 nuclear deal would help hardliners and be a step towards future war, France's defence minister said on Friday.

"We need the JCPOA. Scrapping it would be a gift to Iran's hardiners, and a first step towards future wars," Florence Parly said in a speech at a Washington think tank, referring to the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"But we should also be very serious about the destabilising ballistic and regional activities. We are working on it."

Parly is the first French minister to visit the United States since President Donald Trump's refusal to certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. She held talks with her American counterpart James Mattis and White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, he gave the U.S. Congress 60 days to decide whether to re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact agreed between Iran and six world powers. That has alarmed its European allies, who fear the deal will slowly unravel.

"The issue is now in Congress. France has no desire to be embroiled in U.S. domestic politics, but our position on the agreement is clear."

(Reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Peter Graff, Ingrid Melander)

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