Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obama: International Talks Underway on I.R. Iran Sanctions

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The Associated Press

President Barack Obama said Thursday the United States has begun talking with allies about fresh punishment against Iran for defying efforts to halt its nuclear weapons pursuits. Obama's tough talk came as Iran indicated it would not ship its low-enriched uranium to Russia for processing, the centerpiece of deal aimed at a peaceful resolution of Iran's contested nuclear program. "They have been unable to get to 'yes,' and so as a consequence, we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences," Obama said in a brief news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Obama said a new package of punitive steps will likely be developed "over the next several weeks." He did not get more specific about the nature of any new sanctions, which would require commitments of international support that are hardly clear yet. Standing side by side, Obama and Lee signaled impatience over another nuclear threat, North Korea. They both declared new, united steps in getting that nation to give up its own nuclear weapons.

Lee and Obama rallied behind the South Korean's idea for a one-time "grand bargain" with North Korea of aid and concessions in exchange for de-nuclearization, rather than the stalled step-by-step process. And Obama said his envoy would travel to NorthKorea early next month for the first bilateral talks with the communist government since he took office. The South Korea stop was the final dash of diplomacy for Obama on a weeklong Asia trip, and although he and Lee trumpeted the strength of their nations' alliance, a stalled trade deal continues to vex them. The ambitious South Korean-US pact has bogged down over US lawmakers' worries it could hurt the struggling American auto industry. Differences on the trade matter between Obama and Lee, though muted, were on display. Obama offered public assurances that he was committed to getting the deal and that teams from both countries were working on the troubling issues. He gave some ground, saying Congress must recognize that the US doesn't have the same imbalances as with other Asian nations, and they shouldn't be lumped together. (Read more...)