Iran nuclear Arak - AP - Archive
Heavy-water production plant in the central Iranian town of Arak, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006. Photo by AP
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France's foreign minister said Sunday that Iran appears on track to reach the ability to produce a nuclear weapon by the first half of next year.

France is one of six countries that have negotiated with Tehran over its nuclear program, which Iran insists is peaceful.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe-1 radio Sunday that unspecified experts "have established in an absolutely indisputable way" that Iran has compiled a full array of centrifuges that "apparently will allow the ability to go toward possession of the nuclear weapon by the first half of next year, the end of the first half." He did not elaborate.

Israel has been pushing international powers to take action against Iran over its uranium enrichment activity, which it alleges is for military purposes. Iran contends that the uranium is purely for civilian use.

Western nations fear Iran may turn its uranium enrichment program toward making weapons, a growing concern as Tehran expands the number of machines it uses to enrich uranium.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Jerusalem and Washington were talking about pressuring Iran further. He said setting clear red lines that if crossed will prompt a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities is the only way war can be avoided.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demurred, saying negotiations were "by far the best approach" to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"We're watching very carefully about what they do, because it's always been more about their actions than their words," she said on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

Clinton emphasized that while Israel and the United States share the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, they disagree over the negotiations timetable with the Islamic Republic. Israel is "more anxious about a quick response because they feel that they're right in the bull's-eye, so to speak," Clinton said, adding, "But we're convinced that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good-faith negotiation."