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Clinton Seeks Saudi Support on Curbing Iranian Nuclear Program

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Saudi leaders Monday as she continues a brief tour of the Gulf region focusing on ways to curb Iran's nuclear program. Clinton says it is time for Tehran to be held to account for what she says is its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Clinton will meet Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at his winter desert encampment outside of Riyadh, and also confer with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in a drive to shore up Gulf Arab support for new Iran sanctions.

The United States has been quietly helping build defenses, including the provision of Patriot anti-missile systems, for Gulf allies concerned about Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Yet the same countries are apprehensive about an early sanctions confrontation with Tehran. Clinton said in Doha she welcomes meaningful engagement with Iran but in her words, "we don't want to be engaging while they are building a bomb."

"Iran leaves the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps," Clinton said. "Together we are encouraging Iran to reconsider its dangerous policy decisions, and we are now working actively with our regional and international partners in the context of our dual-track approach to prepare and implement new measures to convince Iran to change its course."

Clinton appeared at a forum on U.S.-Islamic relations in Doha with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.

He stressed the need for political stability in the tense Gulf region and suggested there is still time for dialogue with Iran, including direct outreach to Tehran by the Obama administration.

"We heard today the Secretary say they are willing to talk to the Iranians and they send many messages to Iran," Al-Thani said. "And I believe we cannot talk through messengers in my opinion. I think this problem has to be taken up with the Iranians directly and try to see if we have a deal or we don't have a deal on this."

Clinton acknowledged Arab disappointment that U.S. efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have not yielded a breakthrough.

In the face of complaints from audience members, she also asked for patience by residents of Arab states targeted for tougher screening for U.S. air travel following the abortive effort to blow up a plane near Detroit on December 25.