Russia lays out 'step-by-step' approach on Iran

Lavrov: Iran will address IAEA concerns over nuclear program in return for eased sanctions; US fears losing leverage over Tehran.

July 14, 2011 00:48
2 minute read.
Quartet members gather for a meeting in Washington

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WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) - Russia on Wednesday laid out a "step-by-step" approach under which Iran could address questions about its nuclear program and be rewarded with a gradual easing of sanctions.

The proposal, described by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after talks with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seeks to revive negotiations to put to rest Western suspicions that Iran may be seeking nuclear arms.

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Talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany, in Geneva in December and in Istanbul in January, failed to make headway on reining in Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is peaceful.

Lavrov said Russia had proposed a "phased" process in which Iran would take steps to address the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.

"The response to each specific step of Iran would be followed by some reciprocal step, like freezing some sanctions and shortening the volume of sanctions," Lavrov said at a news conference with Clinton.

He acknowledged differences between the Russian and US stances on the issue, describing it as "yet another example of the fact that there are problems on our agenda."

Clinton did not directly address a question on her views about easing sanctions in a phased approach but Washington has been resistant to this on the grounds that doing so would give up what leverage it has over Tehran.

"We are committed to our dual track of pressure and engagement and we want to explore with the Russians ways that we can perhaps pursue more effective engagement strategies," she said, adding that Russian and US experts would discuss the issue.

The target is to hold the talks in Moscow the week of July 25, said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Iran has said it is willing to resume talks with the Security Council's permanent members and Germany, but its insistence that other countries recognize its right to enrich uranium is a major stumbling block, particularly for Western diplomats who see it as an unacceptable precondition .

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