Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Middle Eastern state's nuclear program must remain entirely in the civilian sphere, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Nov. 17).
The two leaders met in Azerbaijan amid continuing tensions between Moscow and Tehran, after Russia canceled a contract to supply Iran with new air-defense technology (see related GSN story, today).
"The conversation was of a completely open nature. Neither ourselves nor our colleague avoided the unpleasant questions," Sergei Prikhodko, the Russian president's senior foreign policy adviser, said following the talks in Baku.
"The president (Medvedev) spoke of the importance of the continuation of a peaceful Iranian nuclear program," he said in Russian news reports (Dmitry Zaks, Agence France-Presse I/Yahoo!News, Nov. 18).
Medvedev was expected to press Ahmadinejad on resumption of multilateral talks on Iran's nuclear program, Reuters reported.
"We believe that we should negotiate with him," a Kremlin official said ahead of the meeting.
Tehran and the European Union have been working to establish a date, location and agenda for restarting long-stalled talks next month. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would represent Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council in discussions with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
The United States and allied nations suspect that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing a weapons capability. Tehran says its effort has no military component. The nation has been hit with four U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions and penalties from various governments for refusing to halt uranium enrichment operations, which can produce reactor fuel and weapons material (Reuters I, Nov. 18).
If world powers "want to achieve positive results they should stop thinking as aggressors," Ahmadinejad said today. "There are those among them who think as aggressors, and they think they can achieve positive results by putting pressure on us and threatening us," he said in a Reuters report.
"They should change the old methods, otherwise the results will be the same. No embargoes can change the Iranian people," Ahmadinejad added (Afet Mehtiyeva, Reuters II/Yahoo!News, Nov. 18).
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday said that sanctions were having an effect on Iran, Haaretz reported.
"The sanctions are actually taking a fairly significant bite, and that's the current path," Adm. Michael Mullen said. He said a "body of evidence ... indicates that the sanctions are taking their toll much more rapidly than some had anticipated, more deeply."
Nonetheless, "all options" remain on the table for addressing the nuclear standoff, he said.
"We've all been pretty clear here that all options remain on the table, including military options, and will -- and will remain on the table in the future," according to Mullen. "All of that said, I think the current focus is the right focus, but it's something we never take our eye off in terms of the continuing evolution of where Iran is going" (Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz, Nov. 18).
After meeting with Mullen at the Pentagon, the head of the Israel Defense Forces said it remained to be seen whether sanctions would curb Iran's nuclear activities, AFP reported.
T"he real question here is, is it sufficient enough to persuade" Iran to give up its atomic program, said Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. "That's to be determined."
"We still have some time to watch it and see what will be the final outcome," Ashkenazi said.
He said it would be inappropriate to say how long Jerusalem would be willing to let the sanctions effort play out, AFP reported (Agence France-Presse II/Spacedaily.com, Nov. 17).