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Tone sharpens between US and Russia ahead of security talks Eds: Munich Security Conference runs February 5-7

Other News Materials 5 February 2010 18:41 (UTC +04:00)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded sharply on Friday to US objections over its proposed Euro-Atlantic security pact, ahead of this weekend's international security conference in Munich.
Tone sharpens between US and Russia ahead of security talks Eds: Munich Security Conference runs February 5-7

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded sharply on Friday to US objections over its proposed Euro-Atlantic security pact, ahead of this weekend's international security conference in Munich, DPA reported.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had agreed with a key principle of the Russian proposals - the indivisibility of European security - but said she did not support the Russian initiative, in a newspaper contribution ahead of the Munich talks.

"We support the aim, but not the Russian approach," Clinton wrote in a guest article for Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"We see the best solution for European security in strengthening existing institutions, rather than sealing new treaties," the secretary of state added.

Russia's 14-point pact, unveiled last year, aims to finally break with the legacy of the Cold War. It proposes to restrict Russia's ability to use military force unilaterally, if the United States and Europe agreed to do the same.

Lavrov criticized Clinton for supporting the Russian arguments while rejecting their proposal, and said all they wanted was an answer.

"We all have a duty to promptly respond to any issues that affect a state, and not avoid them," the Russian foreign minister said after meeting his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, in Berlin.

 Lavrov said that he planned to discuss the Russian proposals in depth at the Munich conference, where Europe's security architecture features as a key item on the programme.

"All we need is an answer, yes or no," the Russian minister added.

Clinton will not be present at the Munich talks, where US Senator John Kerry is a key speaker. Deputy US Secretary of State James Steinberg is also due to attend.

Lavrov also announced that he planned to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Munich later in the day, to discuss Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

The Russian said he would "attempt to make it perfectly clear," that Iran had to respond to the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and take actions to convince the world that their nuclear programme was peaceful.

"Today there is a real chance to reach agreement on practical issues," said Lavrov, referring in particular to the delivery of nuclear fuels to Iran.

"An agreement on these issues would fundamentally alter the climate," Lavrov said, adding that this would create the conditions talks to resume between Iran and the six countries negotiating a solution.

"I very much hope he will listen to me and react accordingly," the Russian minister said of his meeting with Mottaki.

Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to ship its low-enriched uranium out of the country, in exchange for a more highly processed version to be used as fuel in a medical-purpose reactor in Tehran.

The 46th Munich Security Conference, which runs from February 5-7, provides many opportunities for top diplomats and leaders to talk informally, making it one of the most important events of its kind.

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