Iran tops Clinton’s agenda during Russian visit
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On the final leg of her European tour, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Moscow, where she hopes to get Russia’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions during her meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Tuesday.
REUTERS - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will press Russia on Tuesday to back sanctions against Iran if international talks over Tehran's nuclear programme fail.
Afghanistan, missile defence, and a nuclear arms reductiontreaty are also expected to feature prominently in meetings Clinton holds with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The top U.S. diplomat is finishing a European tour with a two-day visit to Russia, highlighting Washington's desire to reset ties with the Kremlin.
President Barack Obama's decision to revamp Bush-era plans, opposed by Moscow, for a missile defence shield in eastern Europe has helped improve U.S.-Russia relations.
The White House insists no quid pro quo was expected for that move, but analysts say the United States hopes Russian cooperation on a mix of foreign policy issues will increase.
Clinton needs Russian support for a U.S. push to impose sanctions on Iran if talks between six powers and Tehran over its nuclear plans end without resolution.
"The secretary will want to speak to Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Medvedev about what specific forms of pressure Russia would be prepared to join us and our other allies in if Iran fails to live up to its obligations," a senior State Department official told reporters on Monday.
Iran agreed at a meeting with six world powers in Geneva on Oct. 1 to allow U.N. experts access to a newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom.
Officials called the talks constructive, but Clinton warned on Sunday the world would not wait forever for Iran to prove it was not building nuclear bombs.
Russia has been traditionally reluctant to impose sanctions on Iran, but Medvedev signalled openness with recent comments in New York that sanctions were sometimes inevitable.
"For the Russian president to say that sometimes they're inevitable underscores what we believe," the official said.
Like Washington, Russia formally rejects any linkage between Iran and an anti-missile shield. But most analysts say Moscow is likely to use Iran as a bargaining chip.
Ahead of talks with Clinton, Lavrov said he wanted to discuss with her new U.S. plans for an anti-missile shield, redrawn on Obama's orders.
Some Russian officials, including Moscow's ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, have suggested Obama's new missile shield plan involving sea-based and mobile missiles could pose an even stronger security threat.
Russian officials have said Moscow's concerns would be finally lifted only if it became an equal partner in any European anti-missile system.
Arms control talks
Clinton and Lavrov will seek to inject momentum into talks to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires on Dec. 5. Obama and Medvedev agreed on the outlines of a deal in July, but several hurdles may make it difficult to finish by the December deadline.
The two foreign ministers will also discuss a commission they are coordinating that covers issues such as arms control, energy, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, and boosting business and scientific links.
Issues that divide the two nations may arise. Clinton will address human rights and Russia's treatment of Georgia, with which it fought a five-day war last year.
Lavrov and Medvedev may seek specifics about the U.S. review of its Afghanistan strategy and clarification about comments attributed to a U.S. defense official that Washington planned to put radar stations in Ukraine.
The United States denied such plans, and the senior State Department official said the defense official was misquoted.
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