US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met top Russian officials today hoping to win Moscow’s support for tougher sanctions against Iran if Tehran fails to allay fears it is making nuclear weapons.
US President Obama’s decision to scrap plans for an anti-missile system located in Eastern Europe has helped improve ties with Moscow after stormy relations under his predecessor George W. Bush, Reuters reports.
But diplomats say that in return the United States now wants better Russian cooperation on an array of foreign policy issues such as the US-led war in Afghanistan, missile defense and a nuclear arms reduction treaty.
Clinton did not attend a July summit between Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev because of an injury but is finishing a European tour with a two-day visit to Russia.
“I had broken my elbow, but now both my elbow and our relationship are reset and we are moving forward which I greatly welcome,” Clinton told her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at the start of talks at a 19th century mansion in central Moscow.
The United States needs Russian support for a US push to impose sanctions on Iran, if talks between six major powers and Tehran over its nuclear plans end without resolution.
“The secretary (Clinton) will want to speak to Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Medvedev about what specific forms of pressure Russia would be prepared to join us and our other allies in if Iran fails to live up to its obligations,” a senior State Department official told reporters yesterday.
Iran agreed at a meeting with six world powers in Geneva on October 1 to allow UN
experts access to a newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom.
Officials called the talks constructive, but Clinton warned last week the world would not wait forever for Iran to prove it was not building nuclear bombs.
Russia has supported three sets of United Nations sanctions on Iran, though Western powers say Russian diplomats refused to agree to tougher measures against Tehran and Moscow has ruled out imposing oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Like Washington, Russia formally rejects any linkage between Iran and an anti-missile defense system. But most analysts say Moscow is likely to use Iran as a bargaining chip.
Ahead of talks with Clinton, Lavrov said he wanted to discuss with her new US plans for missile defense, redrawn on Obama’s orders.
Some Russian officials, including Moscow’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, have suggested Obama’s new missile defense plan involving sea-based and mobile missiles could pose an even stronger security threat.
Russian officials have said Moscow’s concerns would be finally lifted only if it became an equal partner in any European anti-missile system.
Clinton and Lavrov will seek to inject momentum into talks to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires on December 5. Obama and Medvedev agreed on the outlines of a deal in July, but several hurdles may make it difficult to finish by the December deadline.
The two foreign ministers will also discuss a commission they are coordinating that covers issues such as arms control, energy, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, and boosting business and scientific links.
Issues that divide the two nations may arise. Clinton will address human rights and Russia’s treatment of Georgia, with which it fought a five-day war last year.
Pic: Nuclear blast