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France challenges Iran to act quickly on nuclear talks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - France's foreign minister challenged Iran on Friday to address concerns about its atomic program sooner than the one year it has proposed, because of concern that Tehran could forge ahead with nuclear production despite negotiations with major powers.

"The Iranian foreign minister discussed the heart of the matter ... he spoke about taking a year to move forward, but I reminded him that his president had spoken about three to six months, and he said that he'd be pleased if things could be done more quickly," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in New York.

"I told him that we had to move quickly and that's one of the issues that needs to be dealt with, because does nuclear production continue during the negotiations?" Fabius added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States at the United Nations to discuss the nuclear issue on Thursday.

Zarif, promising to address concerns within a year, made a presentation about the next steps that Iran and the six powers might take to try to resolve the standoff, which has eluded a solution for a decade.

French President Francois Hollande was the first Western leader to meet new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly this week, warning that Paris expected "concrete gestures" by Iran to show it will give up a military nuclear program.

France has been a strong advocate of sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. The United States and its allies suspect Iran is seeking nuclear bomb-making capability despite Tehran's insistence that its program has only peaceful aims.

"We can't find ourselves in a position where the discussions last a year and during this time the number of centrifuges increase, and to enter the technical details that the Arak reactor progresses, which would be a problem," Fabius said.

Hollande told the U.N. General Assembly he was encouraged by the words of the new Iranian government but he now wanted Tehran to follow through with concrete action.

(Corrects day of the week in lead paragraph)

(Reporting By John Irish; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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