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Russia, Iran Discuss Relations with US at Security Conference

By Lisa Bryant
07 February 2009

Iranian and Russian officials mixed tough rhetoric with signals of overture to the new Obama administration at the security conference in Munich, Germany. Speaking at the start of the three-day conference, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani called on Washington to adopt a new approach when it came to dealing with Tehran.

Larijani said the old carrot and stick policy must be discarded -- presumably referring to efforts by Europe, the United States and other nations to get Tehran to give up its nuclear program.

Referring to the Obama administration, he said the new White House could rebuild bridges it has burnt in the past, providing it accepts its mistakes and changes its policies.

Mr. Obama has said the United States is ready for direct talks with Iran, but has rejected one-on-one discussions unless the Iranian regime first makes major concessions on its nuclear program. Iran says that program is aimed only at generating civilian energy, but a number of countries fear Tehran is trying to build a bomb.

Speaking to AP television in Munich, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also cast doubt on Iran's claims that its recent launch of a satellite was also part of a civilian program. "I think that we have to look at the details of the claims (that the satellite launch is part of civilian programme), but given the fact that President Obama said that he was stretching out a hand if Iran would unclench its fist, I don't think that the launch of a satellite qualified as an unclenching of the fist."

In another address at the Munich conference, Russia's deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov urged Washington to renew a key nuclear disarmament pact known as START. Talks on doing so have stalled in recent years.

Leaders and top officials from around the world are gathered at the security meeting, which is expected to deal with a number of hot-button topics, including the conflict in Afghanistan and last year's Russia-Georgia war.

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, who heads the US delegation, is expected to address the conference later Saturday.

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