Clinton Discussing Iran’s Nuclear Program With Russians
October 13, 2009 - 5:11 AMU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was meeting with Russian leaders on Tuesday to urge their support in pressuring Iran to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
In talks with Russia's president and foreign minister, Clinton is trying to gauge Moscow's willingness to back specific measures that could be imposed on Iran if it fails to comply with international demands to come clean on its atomic activities.
At the beginning of her meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Clinton said they would be discussing "important matters, both between our two countries but including important matters we are working on globally."
Beyond Iran, the two diplomats were expected to discuss a recent Obama administration decision to scale back a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.
Also on the agenda are Afghanistan, nuclear-armed North Korea, NATO expansion, the situation in Georgia after its conflict with Russia last year, human rights and arms control.
Clinton is scheduled to meet later Tuesday with a group of human rights activists, followed by a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. On Tuesday evening she is attending a performance of Sergei Prokofiev's opera "The Love for Three Oranges" at the Bolshoi Theatre.
A senior State Department official traveling with Clinton said she intended to speak to Lavrov and Medvedev about "what specific forms of pressure Russia would be prepared to join us and our allies in if Iran fails to live up to its obligations."
The official said it was critical to get tangible signs of support from Moscow because the more united the international community is the more likely pressure on Iran is to work. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the pending private diplomatic discussions.
Maria Lipman, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank, said Monday "there is still no certainty" that Russia will agree to tighten sanctions against Iran.
"Repeatedly, Russia has been about, 'Let's give them another chance, let's make sure that indeed Iran is not delivering on its promises,'" she said.
In recent days, she added, Russian government officials have made statements that cast doubt on the Kremlin's willingness to endorse any new sanctions.
"Things do not look as good today as they did a week ago," she said.
On Sunday, Clinton warned Iran that the world "will not wait indefinitely" for evidence it is not trying to develop atomic weapons.
She said a recent meeting in Geneva in which Iran and six world powers resumed nuclear talks was "a constructive beginning, but it must be followed by action" from the Iranians.
Iran insists it has the right to a full domestic nuclear enrichment program that it maintains is only for peaceful purposes, such as energy production.
Clinton's visit to Moscow is her first since becoming America's top diplomat and since President Barack Obama, who visited Russia in July, vowed to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations.
On Tuesday, Clinton apologized for missing that meeting because of a broken elbow. "But now both my elbow and our relationships are reset and we're moving forward, which I greatly welcome," she said.
The senior official traveling with Clinton said there have been some improvements in cooperation, including a recent agreement that allows U.S. military planes to transport lethal materiel over Russia to Afghanistan.
But he acknowledged numerous disagreements remained.
"We still have differences on Georgia, we still have differences on NATO, we still have differences even on some of the areas that we are working together on, including Iran, and that's cause for further discussion," the official said.
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