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Clinton: Window for Talks with Iran Can't Stay Open Much Longer

The window for negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program cannot stay open for “too much longer”, says outgoing Secretary of State.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/1/2013, 6:15 AM

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton
AFP photo

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concerns over matters related to Iran on Thursday.

Clinton made the comments in her last interview as secretary of state before she is replaced by John Kerry, and addressed both Iran’s nuclear program as well as its support of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, she said that the window for negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program cannot stay open for “too much longer” but would not provide a deadline the end of the talks with the Islamic Republic.

“I don't think the window can remain open for too much longer (but) I am not going to put days, weeks or months on it,” Clinton told reporters.

The comments come in the wake of efforts by the P5+1 -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France plus Germany --to resume the negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

At the most recent talks, in Moscow last June, Tehran rejected P5+1 calls for it to scale back its uranium enrichment activities, while also asking for relief from sanctions that began to bite in 2012.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, recently welcomed the return of the P5+1 to talks over the country's disputed atomic program, but urged them “not to repeat their past mistakes.”

"There was a six-month delay but they recently announced they are ready to come back for talks," said Jalili, adding, “We welcome their return to the talks. We hope that they will come to the talks with a constructive approach and (that) they will not repeat their past mistakes.”

Last week, an EU spokesman said that world powers hope to resume talks with Iran "as soon as possible", but indicated that Iran appears to be trying to delay the process by proposing different venues for the talks and coming up with new conditions.

As for Syria, Clinton indicated that Iran is stepping up its support for the Assad regime, while Russia is continuing to send money and arms to the regime.

“The Iranians have made it clear for some time that keeping Assad in power was one of their highest priorities. We believe they have acted on that by sending in more personnel, not only to help Assad, but to support and advise military security forces," Clinton said, according to AFP.

She added there was "a lot of concern that they are increasing the quality of weapons, because Assad is using up the weapons, so it's numbers and it's material."

"The Iranians have been actively involved from the very beginning. It appears that they may be increasing that involvement and that is a matter of concern to us," Clinton told a small group of journalists.

Clinton also warned that despite U.S. efforts to bring Moscow on board to work for an international solution to the 22-month war in Syria that has claimed some 60,000 lives, Russia was continuing to prop up the regime.

"The Russians are not passive bystanders in their support for Assad. They have been much more active on a number of fronts," she said, according to AFP.

"Their defense of Assad in the Security Council has been the most public, visible sign of that. But there are other ways that they have tried to protect the regime," she added.

"We have reason to believe that the Russians continue to supply financial and military assistance in the form of equipment to Assad."

She voiced hope Moscow might still change its stand, "because they cannot look at what is happening and not believe that it could be incredibly dangerous to everybody interests, including theirs."