U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday there was still time to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff through diplomacy, but that the window for such a solution was closing.
Obama reiterated his position on the Iran nuclear issue after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of a nuclear security summit in Seoul.
|U.S. President Barack Obama|
|Photo by: AP|
“I believe there is a window of time to solve this diplomatically, but that window is closing,” Obama told reporters.
Obama has pressed Israel to hold off on any attack on Iran’s nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy time to work, but has said military action remains an option if all else fails.
During their talks on Sunday, Erdogan spoke to Obama of his planned visit to Iran beforethe end of the month and said he would also talk to Iranian leaders about the violence in Syria, an ally of Tehran, a seniorU.S. official said.
Obama and Erdogan also discussed providing medical supplies and communications support to the Syrian opposition but there was no talk of providing lethal aid for rebel forces, a U.S. official said.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, speaking to reporters after the two leaders met on the eve of a nuclear security summit in Seoul, said Washington and Ankara were open to considering further “non-lethal” aid for the Syrian opposition at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Turkey on April 1.
“We worked on a common agenda in terms of how we can support both humanitarian efforts… (and) the efforts of Koffi Annan to bring about much needed change (in Syria),” Obama said after his meeting with Erdogan, a sharp critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
With regard to Iran, the U.S. president made similar remarks in a joint press conference British Prime Minister David Cameron a week and a half ago, when he warned window for a diplomatic solution was “shrinking”.
In those remarks, he encouraged Tehran to seize the opportunity of talks with world leaders to avert “even worse consequences.”
During that press conference, Obama said there was still “time and space” for a diplomatic solution, in lieu of a military strike to set back Iran’s progress toward a possible bomb, but said “the window for diplomacy is shrinking.”
Earlier that day, the Kommersant daily quoted Russian diplomats as saying that the United States asked Russia to deliver an ultimatum to Iran, warning the Islamic Republic that it has one last chance for talks before a military strike.
According to the Russian newspaper, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in New York on Monday to tell Tehran that it has one last chance to solve the conflict peacefully by making progress in the talks with the P5+1 group – United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany. Otherwise, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities will occur within months, the diplomats said.
The report in Kommersant did not give further details regarding the kind of military action the U.S. was threatening, but quoted Russian diplomats at the UN as saying they believe that it is a “matter of when, not if” Israel would strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.
North Korea directs missiles towards Australia
A North Korean missile launch drill from 2009. Photo: AFP
NORTH KOREA’S forthcoming missile launch will be aimed towards South-East Asia and Australia for the first time, the US has warned.
The warning was delivered in person yesterday to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, by a senior official in the Obama Administration, Kurt Campbell, during a visit to Sydney.
North Korea, which claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear weapon in 2009, has for years worked to improve its long-range ballistic missile capability. Previous missile tests have been launched east, over Japan. But US intelligence suggests the launch announced for mid-April will be aimed south for the first time.
“If the missile test proceeds as North Korea has indicated, our judgment is that it will impact in an area roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines,” Dr Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said yesterday.
“We have never seen this trajectory before. We have weighed into each of these countries and asked them to make clear that such a test is provocative and this plan should be discontinued.”
After the meeting Mr Carr told the Herald: “The North Korean nuclear and long-range missile plans represent a real and credible threat to the security of the region and to Australia.”
The launch would be “in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”
Mr Carr said he and Dr Campbell had “shared views on how both the US and Australia could engage
our regional partners and allies to encourage North Korea to abandon its plans”.
The US President, Barack Obama, will be among some 50 leaders, including Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to meet in a summit in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Monday to discuss nuclear disarmament. North Korea’s abrupt announcement last week of its missile test is expected to dominate discussion.
The announcement from Pyongyang startled observers because it came less than three weeks after it had sealed a new agreement with the US in return for food aid.
South Korea has called the move a “grave provocation”. Its president, Lee Myung-bak, has said he will ask Mr Obama to revise an alliance agreement that limits his country to missiles with a 300-kilometre range.
Japan’s Defence Minister, Naoki Tanaka, said yesterday Tokyo was prepared to shoot down the North Korean long-range rocket if it threatened the country.