Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Clinton Presses Russia on I.R. Iran

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Al Jazeera English

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has held talks in Moscow with Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, in a bid to press for Russian support to curtail Iran's nuclear programme. The two sides also discussed a new arms reduction treaty between the two countries, as well as the situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan. She will later meet Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president. Clinton's visit to Moscow is her first since becoming Washington's top diplomat and comes a week before international talks on a proposal to send Iranian uranium abroad for further processing. The visit comes after Barack Obama, the US president, vowed on a visit to Moscow in July, to "reset" US-Russia relations. During Tuesday's meeting the two foreign ministers discussed new US plans for missile defence as well as their latest plans on replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start). Lavrov had called for "full clarification" about the new sea-based missile defence system which Obama unveiled last month to replace an earlier version, backed by his predecessor, George Bush, to deploy missile defence facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia had fiercely opposed Bush's plan and welcomed Obama's move to alter it as a "responsible approach". Start, which places strict limits on the US and Russian nuclear arsenals and is seen as a cornerstone of Cold War-era strategic arms control, expires on December 5 and negotiators have been seeking to thrash out a successor agreement. Neave Barker, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Moscow, said: "It's been believed for a very long time that the bargaining tool, as it were, from the United States making a U-turn on the missile defence shield was for Russia to place more pressure on Iran. "There is undoubtedly now more international pressure on Russia to support US action against Tehran but we'll have to wait and see. "Over the course of the week we'll have a clearer idea of where Russia is likely to take it's new ties with the US and undoubtedly Iran will be at the crux of that new era in relations." Also on the agenda was North Korea, which set off another round of short-range missile tests on Monday and, according to South Korean media reports, is poised to launch more missiles on Tuesday. Nato expansion, the situation in Georgia after its conflict with Russia last year and human rights are also expected to feature in the talks. (Read more...)