Iran Nuclear NewsRussian foreign minister: US should talk to Iran

Russian foreign minister: US should talk to Iran

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ImageAP: Russia's foreign minister on Monday urged the United States to talk to Iran and staked out a tough position before talks expected this year on a new nuclear arms control treaty, Russian news agencies reported.

The Associated Press

By STEVE GUTTERMAN

ImageMOSCOW (AP) — Russia's foreign minister on Monday urged the United States to talk to Iran and staked out a tough position before talks expected this year on a new nuclear arms control treaty, Russian news agencies reported.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Geneva on Friday in the highest-level meeting between the two nations since President Barack Obama took office.

The United States has long sought more help from Russia in nudging its close partner Iran into compliance with international demands to halt nuclear activities. The U.S. and other Western nations say those activities are aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

But Lavrov suggested is the United States that should step up efforts — led by what Russia calls the 'sextet' of Britain, France, Russia, China, the U.S. and Germany — to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

"We very much want the American side not just to join with the sextet on paper, but to join talks with Iran that the sextet is proposing," ITAR-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying on a flight from Egypt to Spain, where President Dmitry Medvedev wraps up a state visit Tuesday.

Lavrov also said Russia would like to see the United States and Iran restore diplomatic relations.

"This would be an important element in stabilizing the situation in the region," he was quoted as saying.

Russia and the U.S. have argued for years over Iran's nuclear program. Russia, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, has signed off on Western-initiated sanctions punishing Iran for nuclear activity, but only after watering them down with China's help.

Russia has eased U.S. concerns about the nearly finished nuclear power plant it is building in Iran by obliging Iran to return all spent fuel from the reactor. But the project itself is symbolic of the different views of Iran's nuclear program. Russian officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, while persistent U.S. concerns were on display Sunday when Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran already has enough fissile material for one.

Iran is just one of the issues that will test the relationship between Russia and the U.S. under Obama, whose election has raised hopes of improvement after bitter under the administration of George W. Bush.

Arms control is expected to be a main topic of Lavrov's talks with Clinton as the nations prepare to seek a replacement for the 1991 START I nuclear arms treaty, which expires in December. Both indicate they are ready for further cuts.

But Lavrov pressed ahead Monday with the tough stance he laid out last month, saying Russia wants limits on all nuclear warheads, not just those deemed "operationally deployed," and wants to cut not just warheads but also the missiles, bombers and submarines that carry them.

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