Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has opened the door to tougher sanctions intended to stop Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. The Russian leader met with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday in New York.
Russia has strong economic ties with Iran, and has repeatedly opposed sanctions against the Islamic state. But after talking with President Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting, Mr. Medvedev appeared to soften the Russian position.
"Sanctions rarely lead to productive results," said Dmitry Medvedev. "But in some cases, sanctions are inevitable."
The U.S. and Russia, as well as four other nations, are to begin talks with Iran on October 1 over its nuclear program. Mr. Obama wants tougher sanctions if those negotiations are not successful.
"Then we will have to take additional actions, and that sanctions, serious additional sanctions, remain a possibility," said President Obama.
Mr. Medvedev said the U.S. and Russia's other negotiating partners could help improve the chances of successful talks by offering unspecified incentives for Iran to comply.
"Our task is to create such a system of incentives that would allow Iran to resolve its peaceful nuclear program, but at the same time prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons," he said.
Before the meeting, White House officials said the Iran nuclear problem would be Mr. Obama's top priority when the two leaders sat down.
The president has denied that his decision last week to abandon a plan for a U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe was related to efforts to get more help from Moscow on Iran. After their meeting in New York, the Russian president called Mr. Obama's missile defense announcement reasonable, and said it took Moscow's concerns into account.
President Obama also said he and Mr. Medvedev believe they can have an agreement before January to reduce their countries' nuclear arsenals.
"Both of us are confident that we can meet our self-imposed deadline to get an agreement that substantially reduces our nuclear missiles and launchers by the end of the year," said Mr. Obama.
On Thursday, Mr. Obama is to lead a U.N. Security Council meeting on limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, which is mostly aimed at Iran.