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Report: US asked Russia to deliver ultimatum to Iran

A leading Russian newspaper reported today that US Secretary of State Clinton requested that Russia tell Iran upcoming talks are the 'last chance' before it pursues a military option.

By Correspondent / March 14, 2012

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the State Duma, the lower parliament chamber, in Moscow, Wednesday.

Misha Japaridze/AP

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Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. EST.

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The US has asked Russia to carry an ultimatum to the leaders of Iran, warning that upcoming six-nation talks on the Iranian nuclear program will be the "last chance" for progress before it pursues a military option, the leading Moscow daily Kommersant reported today (in Russian).

According to an anonymous high Russian diplomatic source quoted by the newspaper, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a UN Security Council session on March 12 to deliver that tough missive to Tehran ahead of talks scheduled to take place in Turkey by April. Kommersant is a pro-business, liberal newspaper that is generally considered reliable when it cites official sources, although today's story does not provide any direct quotes from the unnamed diplomat. 

US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner declined to comment on the Kommersant story but said in an e-mail, "We still believe there's time for a diplomatic solution so long as Iran is serious about addressing [the] international community's concerns."

Speaking at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Washington today, President Obama offered a similar assessment of the options facing Tehran.

"I think (the Iranians) should understand ... that the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking," Obama said. "We will do everything we can to resolve this diplomatically but ultimately we’ve got to have somebody on the other side of the table who is taking this seriously and I hope that the Iranian regime understands that," he added.

The panel that will negotiate with Iran is known as the P5 + 1 group because it includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia, China, Britain, France and the US – plus Germany. Experts say the West will demand full disclosure from Iran on the extent of its nuclear program, and access to the suspected nuclear weapons testing site at Parchin for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency

The diplomatic source told Kommersant that American and Israeli preparations for a military strike against Iran are well underway, and that the attack is almost certain to happen before US presidential elections in November unless some major diplomatic breakthrough occurs.

"The invasion will happen before year’s end," Kommersant quoted the diplomat as saying. "The Israelis are de facto blackmailing [President Barack] Obama. They’ve put him in this interesting position – either he supports the war or loses the support of the Jewish lobby." 

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