TOPICS > Politics

Russia Rebuffs U.S. for Tougher Action on Iran

BY Anna Shoup  October 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

Clinton pushed for continuing diplomacy with Iran but also tried to rally Russian support for tougher action if Iran cannot prove its nuclear program is peaceful.

“At the same time that we are very vigorously pursuing this track, we are aware that we might not be as successful as we need to be, so we have always looked at the potential of sanctions in the event we are not successful and cannot assure ourselves and others that Iran has decided not to pursue nuclear weapons,” Clinton said at a joint news conference.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful production of energy though Western officials suspect they are making highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. The U.N. has already imposed three sets of sanctions.

Iran recently disclosed a secret uranium enrichment site dug into the mountain near Qom and agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the plant in late October, according to Reuters. Iran also agreed to send most of its low enriched uranium to Russia for processing. This cooperation with the IAEA may make convincing Russia of the need to act a harder task for the U.S.

The U.S. and Russia are working on building a better relationship and President Obama visited the country in July when he said he would “reset” the partnership between the two countries. In September, Mr. Obama scrapped a plan crafted by the Bush administration to put a missile shield in Eastern Europe that would deflect missiles from Iran.

The plan had strained U.S. relations with Russia because of concerns that the system as planned in Eastern Europe would be used against Russia.

At the time, Russian President Medvedev praised the change.

“We appreciate this responsible move by the U.S. president toward realizing our agreement. I am ready to continue the dialogue,” Medvedev said.

In her meeting with Lavrov on Tuesday, Clinton said the plan for a new approach would be as transparent as possible with Russia.

“We want to ensure that every question that the Russian military or Russian government asks is answered,” Clinton said.

Also on the agenda was crafting a new strategic arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The current treaty, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, will expire in December expires in December and the two sides have yet to settle on a new agreement. The two diplomats also discussed Afghanistan, nuclear-armed North Korea, NATO expansion and other issues.

The trip is Clinton’s first visit to Russia since becoming secretary of state. Clinton will meet with President Dmitry Medvedev later on Tuesday.