Bloomberg News

Clinton Says Will Soon Be Clear If Iran Serious About Talks

March 31, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it will soon be clear whether Iran is serious about talks on its nuclear program, and warned that the window to engage “will not remain open forever.”

Negotiations between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany are set to be held April 13 and 14 in Istanbul, Clinton said, even as the U.S. and its allies pursue a range of sanctions against the Islamic republic. While the U.S. says Iran must allay concerns that it’s pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes, including medical research.

“It soon will be clear whether Iran’s leaders are prepared to have a serious, credible discussion about their nuclear program,” Clinton said today in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital. “It is up to Iran’s leaders to make the right choice. So far they have given little reason for confidence. What is certain is that Iran’s window to seek and obtain a peaceful resolution will not remain open forever.”

Clinton is in Riyadh for the inaugural meeting of a Gulf Cooperation Council strategic group to discuss the creation of a missile defense system. She goes to Istanbul this evening for an April 1 ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting, bringing together Syrian opposition groups and their international backers.

Syria has said it accepts a six-point UN peace plan put forward by Kofi Annan, the former UN chief who is acting as the international body’s envoy to Syria. It calls for President Bashar al-Assad’s government to pull back its forces, allow humanitarian aid workers and international monitors to enter, and permit peaceful protests to take place.

Clinton warned that verbal acceptance of the proposal is not enough.

“The world will judge Assad’s sincerity by what he does, not by what he says,” Clinton said. “As of today, regime forces continue to shell civilians, lay siege to neighborhoods, and even target places of worship.”

At least 25 people were killed by security forces in Syria today, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mail.

Clinton said Annan should set a deadline for Syria to meet its commitment to implement the peace plan. The GCC, in a closing statement for today’s meeting, urged the envoy “to determine a timeline for next steps if the killing continues.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Riyadh at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net


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