Clinton: Time running out for diplomacy with Iran (AP) Associated Press) By BRADLEY KLAPPER RIYADH, Saudi Arabia 03/31/12 3:48 pm ET)
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
made clear Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy over
Iran´s nuclear program and said talks aimed at preventing Tehran from
acquiring a nuclear weapon would resume in mid-April.
With speculation over a possible U.S. or Israel military attack
adding urgency to the next round of discussions in Istanbul set for
April 13, Clinton said Iran´s "window of opportunity" for a peaceful
resolution "will not remain open forever."
She also expressed doubt about whether Iran has any intention of
negotiating a solution that satisfies the U.S., Israel and other
countries that believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Tehran contends the program is solely for peaceful energy and
"We´re going in with one intention: to resolve the international
community´s concerns about Iran´s nuclear program," Clinton told
reporters after attending a security conference in Saudi Arabia.
"Our policy is one of prevention, not containment. We are determined
to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," America´s top
"We enter into these talks with a sober perspective about Iran´s
intentions. It is incumbent upon Iran to demonstrate by its actions
that it is a willing partner and to participate in these negotiations
with an effort to obtain concrete results."
Her remarks followed President Barack Obama´s announcement Friday
that the U.S. was moving ahead with penalties aimed at depriving Iran
of oil revenue, while also working with Saudi Arabia and other
Persian Gulf states to ensure ample global petroleum supplies.
Clinton prodded Gulf governments to develop a coordinated defense
strategy against Iranian missiles. With tensions rising in the
region, she said American and Gulf militaries should cooperate to
improve maritime security as well.
Underscoring the limits of U.S.-Gulf cooperation, however, U.S.
officials confirmed Saturday that the United Arab Emirates had shut
down an American-funded democracy group, following similar Emirates
action against a German organization this past week.
Discussions also covered ways to pressure Syrian President Bashar
Assad to end a year of bloodshed from the uprising against his rule,
but the focus was on Iran.
"It soon will be clear whether Iran´s leaders are prepared to have a
serious, credible discussion about their nuclear program, whether
they are ready to start building the basis of a resolution to this
very serious problem," Clinton said. "It is up to Iran whether they
are ready to make the right choice. ... What is certain is that
Iran´s window of opportunity to seek and obtain a peaceful resolution
will not remain open forever."
She said pressure from the economic penalties and international
isolation was increasing on Iran to show it is serious about
satisfying the world´s concerns.
Iran and the six nations involved in the negotiations_ the United
States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — met in Istanbul
14 months ago. But the talks ended after two days with the sides
unable to even agree on what to talk about.
Iran has used past talks to delay sanctions or try to divide the
international front, while pressing ahead with its nuclear program.
Obama has underlined the need to give time for diplomacy alongside
penalties. He said Friday that the U.S. would move ahead with
potential measures against U.S. allies and other countries that keep
buying Iranian oil. It was the latest step in the campaign to starve
Iran of money for its nuclear activity.
The president said the world oil market was tight, but deep enough to
keep the squeeze on Iran.
Clinton, who met Friday for almost two hours with Saudi King
Abdullah, said the U.S. and Saudi Arabia share an interest in
ensuring stable energy markets that foster economic growth.
She recognized the kingdom´s efforts to meet increased market demand
for countries weaning themselves off Iranian petroleum imports. She
also said the U.S. and Sunni governments of the region would
cooperate to counter Iranian threats against shipping in the Gulf and
Tehran´s support for "the Assad regime´s murderous campaign."
Before arriving later Saturday in Turkey, where she planned to attend
a 60-nation "Friends of the Syrian People" meeting Sunday, Clinton
lamented what she called the Assad government´s shelling of civilian
neighborhoods and targeting of mosques and churches.
She said these attacks have continued despite Assad´s acceptance of
U.N. mediator Kofi Annan´s plan to end the crisis. That plan includes
an immediate cease-fire and an eventual democratic transition.
In a concluding statement, the U.S. and the other countries at
Saturday´s meeting urged Annan to issue a timeline for putting his
plan in place.
Western diplomats want to give diplomacy a chance, having invested
months of effort to persuade Russia and China, veto-holding members
of the U.N. Security Council, to unite behind a common approach. But
they, like the Syrian opposition, fear Assad may only be playing for
Assad said he wants the plan to succeed, but insists the opposition
must first commit to a cease-fire.
The West says the Syrian government must pull back its troops first,
and U.S. officials say much of the diplomacy right now concerns the
choreography of how the two sides would lay down their arms.
More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria´s violence since
last March, according to U.N. estimates.
Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the most
impatient and have spoken about possible military intervention, from
arming Syria´s badly overmatched rebels to creating safe zones from
which the rebels can operate.
"I believe we all agree on the need for an immediate cease-fire to
the systematic killing," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said
at a news conference with Clinton.
He said the Syrian government´s crackdown has "reached the level, at
the very least described as crimes against humanity, on which the
international community should not remain silent."
Washington fears a military escalation could lead to all-out civil
war and play into Assad´s hands, considering his vastly more powerful
Clinton said officials meeting in Turkey would discuss "additional
steps to increase pressure on the regime, provide humanitarian
assistance despite the efforts of the regime to block access and
advance plans for an inclusive, democratic and orderly transition
that addresses the aspirations of the Syrian people."
Clinton said she regretted the decision by the Emirates´ this past
week to close down the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute and
Germany´s Konrad Adenauer Foundation. She said she expressed her
displeasure in a meeting Saturday with the foreign minister and said
the U.S. would continue to press its case. ___ Associated Press
writer Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report. (© 2012
The Associated Press 03/31/12)
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