February 5, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plunged into her first day of intensive diplomacy yesterday, meeting separately with the foreign ministers of Britain and Germany and receiving a trip report from her Middle East envoy.
Clinton sought to assure European allies that the administration would closely coordinate with them on its emerging efforts to hold direct talks with Iran. She had pointed words about Iranian behavior on the same day that Tehran announced it had successfully sent its first domestically produced satellite into orbit using an Iranian-made long-distance missile.
“President Obama has signaled his intention to support tough and direct diplomacy with Iran, but if Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences,” Clinton said with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at her side. She used the abbreviation for the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has unsuccessfully sought answers from Iran on its nuclear program.
During the Bush administration, the United States, along with Russian and China, joined a European-led effort to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions — offering a choice of economic incentives or sanctions — but then-President George W. Bush had set strict limits on the nature of the U.S. participation. The six nations demanded that Iran first suspend its nuclear enrichment activities before negotiations could begin, a stance that Iran repeatedly rejected, even as the allies greatly watered down the demands for suspension. The six nations also had trouble reaching agreement on tough sanctions when Iran failed to comply with their demands.
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