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U.S. DEFENSE CHIEF LOOKS TO CLOSER TIES WITH FRANCE

The U.S. and French armed forces want to work more closely despite differences over Iran and NATO, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said Saturday.

Cohen spoke to reporters traveling with him from Bosnia to Paris, where he was to hold talks Monday with French Defense Minister Alain Richard.

"I think they (French military officials) want to try to make things work a lot better (with the United States)," Cohen said, adding that the United States also wanted closer military cooperation in areas such as Africa.

Franco-U.S. ties are under strain over French oil firm Total SA's signature on a $2 billion deal to develop an Iranian gas field and U.S. refusal to bow to Paris' demands to hand leadership of NATO's southern command to a European officer.

Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a more powerful Iran, which might use money from the deal to buy weapons or advance its possible plans to obtain nuclear weapons, could threaten stability in the Middle East.

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