MOSCOW, (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to win specific pledges from Moscow on tougher sanctions against Iran during a visit to Russia yesterday but hailed progress in other areas such as arms control.
A senior U.S. official had said before the talks that Clinton wanted to know “what specific forms of pressure Russia would be prepared to join us and our other allies in” if Iran did not keep promises to the international community not to pursue nuclear weapons.
But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov restated at a news conference with Clinton Russia’s position that any talk of sanctions against Iran at this stage was counter-productive.
“All forces should be aimed at supporting talks,” he said.
A U.S. official later told reporters of the Russian side: “They said they weren’t ready in this context to talk specifically about what steps they would be willing to take.”
The Russian side preferred to discuss any possible moves against Iran in the context of the United Nations, the official added, speaking on condition he was not identified. Clinton praised “very comprehensive and productive” discussions with Lavrov, saying they were further evidence of the “reset” in formerly rocky U.S.-Russia relations.
“I feel very good about the so-called reset,” she said.
Clinton insisted at the news conference she had not sought specific commitments from Moscow on Iran.
“We did not ask for anything today,” she said. “We reviewed the situation and where it stood, which I think was the appropriate timing for what this process entails.”
Clinton, on her first visit to Russia since taking her post, quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying sanctions against Iran might be inevitable.
A U.S. official later told reporters Medvedev had told her he expected Iran to implement its promises on its nuclear programme and if it did not “there should be sanctions”.
“That was a clear statement of the Russian position that we found reassuring,” the senior State Department official said.
Medvedev has previously made it clear Moscow is ready to back further sanctions against the Islamic Republic unless it changes course on its nuclear programme, despite Russia’s general reluctance to support such punitive measures.