Clinton will press Russia on Iran, arms

Possible sanctions, N. Korea, NATO expected topics

By Matthew Lee
Associated Press / October 13, 2009

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MOSCOW - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to press Russian leaders for “specific forms of pressure’’ against Iran if the regime fails to comply with international demands to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.

Clinton arrived in Moscow from Belfast yesterday, primed for a heavy schedule of meetings today with President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the Iran question, Afghanistan, and a recent Obama administration decision to scale back a Bush-era proposal for an antimissile shield in Europe.

Also on the agenda are nuclear-armed North Korea, which set off another round of short-range missiles in tests earlier yesterday, NATO expansion, the situation in Georgia after its conflict with Russia last year, human rights, and arms control.

A senior State Department official traveling with Clinton said she intends 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.

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 maintains that it has the right to a full domestic nuclear enrichment program that it says is only for peaceful purposes, such as energy production.

It is already under three sets of UN sanctions. Russia and China have balked at imposing new penalties on Iran although Medvedev has hinted the Russian position might be shifting after Tehran disclosed a previously secret uranium enrichment site near the holy city of Qom.

But US officials believe it will be a hard sell to convince the Russians on fresh penalties because Iran agreed to allow UN inspectors to visit the Qom site and has agreed, in principle, to send most of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for reprocessing.

Iran agreed to allow inspections of the Qom site following the Geneva talks between Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and diplomats from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany.

The Iranians were given time to decide whether to accept a package of incentives in exchange for Iran’s compliance with international demands to suspend its uranium enrichment or face new sanctions.

The Obama administration is anxious not to does not want to let up on the pressure and Clinton will be looking for Russian expressions of support for sanctions and other penalties should Iran continue to refuse by the end of the year, the officials said.