The New York Times reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov finds further sanctions on Iran would be counterproductive as efforts should continue to be focused on diplomacy. Reuters reports a somewhat different take on Secretary of State Clinton’s meeting Tuesday with Lavrov, saying that both shared the view that now is not the time for sanctions.

Clinton, on her first visit to Russia since taking her post, quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying sanctions against Iran might be inevitable, adding:
“But we are not at that point yet. That is not a conclusion we have reached. And we want to be very clear that it is our preference that Iran works with the international community…to fulfill its obligation on inspections.”
Clinton generally played down differences with Moscow at a news conference held jointly with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov told reporters at the joint news conference:

“At the current stage, all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process. Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive.”

In reference to an earlier statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in which he said that while sanctions are rarely productive, “in some cases they are inevitable”, Lavrov insisted that Medvedev meant that sanctions would be considered when all political and diplomatic efforts are exhausted.
One anonymous U.S. official expressed the view that it was important that Moscow signal support for at least considering new sanctions should Iran not follow through on negotiations on its nuclear program since unified support would more effectively pressure Iran on the issue. Clinton claimed that she had not asked for specific support from Russia on actually imposing sanctions.
Clinton said the U.S. agreed it was important to pursue diplomacy with Iran, adding:

“At the same time that we are very vigorously pursuing this track, we are aware that we might not be as successful as we need to be, so we have always looked at the potential of sanctions in the event we are not successful and cannot assure ourselves and others that Iran has decided not to pursue nuclear weapons.”

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