Wednesday, November 18, 2009

US, Russia Say I.R. Iran 'Running Out of Time' on Nuclear

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Agence France Presse (AFP)

President Barack Obama on Sunday won the strongest backing yet from Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on the Iranian nuclear crisis as the US leader warned that Tehran was "running out of time". Obama expressed frustration with Iran's failure to give an answer three weeks after it received a UN-brokered offer aimed at defusing the stand-off, while Medvedev suggested that even Russian patience was now wearing thin. "Unfortunately, so far at least, Iran has been unable to say yes" to the proposal, Obama said after talks with Medvedev at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore. "We now are running out of time with respect to that approach," said Obama. Russia, which has the strongest ties with Tehran of any big power, has traditionally been unwilling to punish Iran with tough measures. But Medvedev said that Tehran risked sanctions if the crisis continued. He said Moscow was "not completely happy about the pace" of efforts to resolve the crisis. "In case we fail, the other options remain on the table, in order to move the process in a different direction," he said in a reference to new UN sanctions against Tehran.

"As reasonable politicians, we understand that any process should have a final point. The process of talks exists not for the pleasure of talking but for achieving practical goals." Russia, like the United States, is a veto-wielding UN Security Council permanent member, and its support is crucial if US warnings of tough sanctions against Tehran are to carry weight. China is another permanent council member, and US officials say Iran is likely to figure in discussions this week between Obama and President Hu Jintao in Beijing. Russia also has unmatched leverage as it is building Iran's first nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr, and has an as-yet unfulfilled contract to deliver advanced air defence missiles to Tehran. Medvedev's comments were stronger than his most recent statement on the nuclear crisis when he told the German magazine Der Spiegel earlier this month that sanctions could not be excluded. Obama described as "fair" the proposal offered to Iran, which would see states -- including Russia -- help Tehran to further enrich Iranian uranium for delivery to a research reactor. Referring to sanctions, he said that "we will begin to discuss and prepare for these other pathways" as Tehran could not be counted on to fulfil its international obligations. (Read more...)