Last Updated: Fri Dec 03, 2010 22:42 pm (KSA) 19:42 pm (GMT)

US seeks to boost security coop with Gulf: Clinton

 

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday the U.S. seeks to increase security cooperation with Gulf countries, calling it an essential partnership in an unstable region.

Clinton, speaking at a security conference in Bahrain, also called on all regional countries -- including Iran -- to work to protect freedom of navigation for Gulf waterways, where shipping of oil and other essential commodities is under rising threat of pirate attack.

The US top diplomat urged Tehran to enter next week's nuclear talks in good faith and warned that Iran's current path would only lead to greater pressure and isolation.

Clinton addressed herself to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, saying: "We urge you to restore the confidence of the international community and live up to your obligations."

Earlier, Clinton said that U.S. concerns over Tehran's suspected atomic weapons program are shared by Iran's neighbors, just as people in northeast Asia are worried about North Korea's activities.

"Perhaps the Iranians, with their return to the talks in Geneva starting Monday, will engage seriously with the international community on what is a concern shared by nations on every continent but most particularly right here in the region," Clinton said.

Iran, which has downplayed the WikiLeaks disclosures and said they will not affect relations with its neighbors, has adopted a tough and uncompromising stance ahead of new nuclear talks with world powers.

Need for international solidarity

 We're all concerned about these two countries...(but) it's not directed at the people of either country. It is a concern about decisions being made by the leaders of these countries that puts at risk the peace and stability of two regions in the world 
U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton

After months of stalling, it will resume talks in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday with the so-called P5+1 grouping U.N. Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States with Germany.

The Security Council has called on Iran in six resolutions -- four of which impose sanctions -- to halt its controversial atomic work, as part of the international community suspects Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

Clinton, who will meet the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea in Washington on Monday to discuss mounting tension with North Korea, said the twin threats posed by Pyongyang and Tehran showed the need for international solidarity against nuclear proliferation.

"We're all concerned about these two countries...(but) it's not directed at the people of either country. It is a concern about decisions being made by the leaders of these countries that puts at risk the peace and stability of two regions in the world," Clinton said.

The United States has no quarrel with Iran's desire to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, she added.

"What we object to is the pursuit of nuclear weapons that can be used to threaten and intimidate their neighbors. It will spark arms races in both regions," Clinton said.

Clinton said on Thursday that North Korea posed an "immediate threat" following its revelations of new nuclear facilities and an artillery attack on a South Korean island which sent tensions on the divided peninsula soaring.

Tougher stance on Tehran urged

 We do believe that every country in the Middle East has the right to nuclear power for peaceful use -- when it comes to taking that power to developing into a cycle for weapons grade (nuclear material), that is something that we can never accept and we can never live with in this region 
Clinton

Clinton's trip to Bahrain, where she will deliver a speech later on Friday on the U.S. role in regional security, follows revelations contained in leaked U.S. embassy cables which showed many regional leaders privately urged Washington to take a tougher stance on Tehran.

The leaks, contained in documents made public by the website Wikileaks, showed that fears over Iran's nuclear program are widespread and that some in the region believe it should be stopped at any cost.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa of Bahrain, declined to discuss details contained in documents that he said were U.S. government property.

But he said that any move towards a nuclear weapons program in the region was unacceptable.

"We do believe that every country in the Middle East has the right to nuclear power for peaceful use -- when it comes to taking that power to developing into a cycle for weapons grade (nuclear material), that is something that we can never accept and we can never live with in this region," he said.

U.S. officials say there is still time for a diplomatic solution with Iran but the increasingly defiant state must take "tangible steps" to address concerns about its nuclear program.

U.S. officials also say economic sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program -- which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes -- are biting increasingly deeply, and may be cutting investment in its crucial energy sector by as much as $60 billion.

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