Reuters: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will lobby Russia to pressure Iran over its suspected nuclear arms programmes at talks in Moscow on Saturday, U.S. officials said.
By Saul Hudson
PARIS – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will lobby Russia to pressure Iran over its suspected nuclear arms programmes at talks in Moscow on Saturday, U.S. officials said.
The former Soviet specialist will squeeze a Russian leg into a previously scheduled trip to France and Britain that focuses on shoring up support for the U.S. hard line against the Islamic republic.
The United States won a resolution last month at the 35-member U.N. nuclear watchdog for Iran to be reported to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. But no deadline was set for the move and Rice is trying to find ways of keeping the pressure on Iran.
Iran denies U.S. accusations it wants to build atomic bombs and says its programmes are aimed at the peaceful generation of electricity.
Restricting Tehran’s nuclear programmes is a top foreign policy priority for Rice due to American fears an Iranian A-bomb would be a powerful threat to its allies across the volatile Middle East.
Iran broke off talks and resumed sensitive nuclear activities in August, prompting several countries to side with the United States at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Rice, who landed in Paris late on Thursday, wants Iran to return to negotiations on its programmes with the EU, led by Britain, France and Germany, said the officials who were travelling with Rice.
She is not visiting Germany, which is still in the throes of choosing a new government after elections last month, but will visit Moscow.
Russia, which has a project to build a nuclear reactor in Iran for civilian power, abstained at the IAEA vote in what was viewed as a concession to the United States.
But U.S. diplomats doubt Russia is ready for tougher action at the Security Council.
Despite mixed signals in recent weeks from the United States, Rice, who will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin, will not demand Russia freeze the reactor project at Bushehr.
“We are not pushing the Russians not to cooperate on Bushehr. You might need to do that later, but not now,” a senior Bush administration official, who asked not to be named, said.
Still, the United States does not want Russia to backtrack at the next IAEA meeting in November and hopes Moscow will use its economic leverage to exert pressure on Iran.
Rice decided to fly to Russia after her original plan to meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Europe fell through.
She will arrive late on Friday and is likely to be in Moscow less than 24 hours before flying to London for talks on Saturday and Sunday.
In all three countries, Rice will also discuss how to bolster peace moves in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and intensify pressure on Syria over what Washington sees as its interference in neighbouring Lebanon, U.S. officials said.