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Friday, October 28, 2016

By Paul Richter, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — A senior Obama administration official said Friday that U.S. frictions with Russia over Ukraine have not interfered with discussions concerning pending Iran nuclear negotiations, and expressed hope that the deepening conflict “will not put these negotiations at risk.”

In a media briefing ahead of a negotiating session scheduled for March 17 in Vienna, the official said U.S. and Russian officials spoke “at great length” on Iran this week, as U.S. officials did with other envoys from the six-nation group that is seeking to work out a deal with Iran. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the subject.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London on Friday in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to resolve their differences over Ukraine, which became a hot-button issue when troops from Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula in late February. The Russian-supported government in Crimea is set to hold a referendum Sunday on whether to secede from Ukraine, a move the U.S. has condemned as illegal.

As international frictions over Ukraine have grown, Western officials have worried that the clash could halt collaboration with Russia on the Iran nuclear talks and the Syrian civil war.

U.S. officials have generally argued that they believe Russia will continue to cooperate on Iran because it doesn’t want another nuclear-armed state on its border. However, some former officials have noted Russian threats and said Moscow could undermine the talks in retaliation for U.S. pressure on Ukraine.

The Obama administration and the five other governments are seeking to negotiate a deal with Iran to ensure that its nuclear program does not develop bomb-making capability.

The official said the negotiators “are intent on succeeding, and intent on succeeding within the six-month time frame” that is the goal of the talks.

The official said the U.S. is satisfied that Iran’s oil sales will not exceed targets spelled out in a preliminary agreement on partially lifting international sanctions that was reached last November, even though there has been a uptick in sales in the last three months. U.S. officials have been in regular contact with Iran’s oil customers to try to ensure that they won’t violate the sanctions by exceeding the purchase targets.

The official, while declining to provide details of the talks, said they “are moving forward in a positive way.”

The group has discussed every major issue at least once and gone into greater depth on many, the official said.

The official acknowledged that countries have different views on various issues, and pointed out that a final deal will be reached only if the group can overcome all differences.

If a country asserts “a strident view … that’s going to have to be accommodated in some way,” the official said.

AFP Photo/Andrew Burton

  • lemstoll

    The art of Iranian “negotiating.”

  • charleo1

    First, somebody should explain why the Ukrainian situation is any of our
    business? Then, explain how, and for what reason, other than the rotten, insane politics we insist on engaging in, in this Country nowadays, this makes our President look weak? We have got to be the stupidest people on the planet. And, we have no excuse for it. But our own narcissistic, self involved navel gazing. Where anything that happens anywhere in the world, suddenly becomes all about us. And then, is turned into partisan political fodder, for our own consumption. We’re becoming a constant embarrassment to ourselves, and to our friends. Those we have left, after Bush. We are looked upon, after the securitized debt scam, as being run financially, by a group of crooks, con men, and sleazy corporations. It’s what happens to a Nation’s reputation, when the Country’s government is controlled by an unnamed consortium of bilkers, and billionaires, who get whatever it is they want. Usually, whenever they want it. But are under no obligation to tell us, or the rest of the world community what’s on their agenda. And, let’s just be honest about it. That friends, makes the United States, in the eyes of the rest of the world, an unpredictable, and dangerous Country. Don’t believe me? That’s according to Beijing. Who is insisting the world dump the dollar. Because, we’re so deep in debt? Not at all. But because, according to China, we’re becoming too unstable, and unreliable of a Country to hold the World’s reserve currency. Because we keep threatening to default on our debt. And, why would we do that? Because, we now have people running Congress, who are so God Damn stupid, they believe playing chicken with the world financial markets is a good way to raise campaign funds. And they’re right, it is. So we’ll probably soon have more idiots just like them. For all we know, or our friends know, or the world knows, these jack asses will be in charge in just 3 years. There are those, who everyday beg the people of this Country to wake up, and see what we’re doing to ourselves. To our democracy, and our trusted position as a benevolent, and responsible leader of the world community. But we’re too busy playing gotcha politics with ourselves, to listen. Too self absorbed with our own petty soap operas, to worry about anything so nobel. Plus,
    if anything were to work out well, that could mean it goes down as a plus for Obama. And that could mean the Senate might not change to Republican control. And of course, God forbid, another Democratic President. So, we better make sure whatever happens in the Ukraine, it can be characterized as a big freekin mess, that Obama’s feckless, and weak foreign policy has allowed to happen. So the next President then, not wanting to pay the political price, will just come out shootin’. How’d that be?