News / Middle East

Clinton, Hague Affirm United Stand on Iran

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Britain's new Foreign Secretary William Hague Friday reaffirmed a united stand on the need for further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The Washington visit was Hague's first foreign trip since the new conservative-led British coalition government took office Tuesday.

Clinton and Hague made clear that, despite the change in government in London, the traditional "special relationship" between the United States and Britain continues, and that there is no daylight between the two permanent U.N. Security Council members on the need for new sanctions against Iran.

Negotiations on what would be a fourth sanctions resolution against Iran because of its refusal to respond to world concerns about its uranium-enrichment program are under way in New York.

At a press appearance with Hague, who succeeded Labour government Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Clinton said there will be no serious response from the Iranians without a new resolution.

Clinton has been in consultations with Security Council member states Turkey and Brazil, which are still trying engagement with Tehran.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva makes a pivotal visit to Tehran this coming weekend after a stop in Moscow, where Clinton said Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told the Brazilian leader his mission has slim prospects for success.

"The Brazilians are still hopeful that because of President Lula's visit, the Iranians will agree to meet with the P5+1, that they will accept the Tehran research reactor proposal, that they will begin to abide by international obligations. And in fact President Medvedev told President Lula in the context of the visit that he didn't give him more than a one-in-three chance," she said.

A senior U.S. official Thursday called President Lula's Tehran visit a last chance for Iran before new sanctions should be imposed.

Foreign Secretary Hague said the new British government fully supports the U.S. approach, and that Britain will do all it can to persuade European Union partners to enact parallel financial sanctions to buttress the pending U.N. resolution.

Asked if military action might some day be required to halt Iran's nuclear program, Hague said it is that prospect that drives Britain's support for punitive steps now that can persuade Tehran to change course.

"We've never ruled out supporting in the future military action, but we've not calling for it. It is precisely because we want to see this matter settled peacefully and rapidly that we call for the sanctions, that we support the idea of a Security Council resolution. So that is our perspective on it," he said.

Clinton and Hague also reaffirmed bilateral cooperation on Afghanistan and the quest for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

They also vowed continuity on the allied military strategy in Iraq.

Clinton said she is gratified that recent bombings in Iraq, attributed to what she said was a fading al-Qaida in Iraq group, had not led to sectarian recriminations, and said they have not affected the U.S. withdrawal timetable.

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