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U.S. Official: "No Hint Whatsoever" Russia Changing Stance On Iran

Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran, made the remarks during a visit to Ukraine.

Posted on March 20, 2014, at 11:16 a.m. ET

KIEV, Ukraine — A senior State Department official says the United States has received no indication Russia will change its stance on Iran's nuclear program as a result over tensions on Ukraine, despite public hints to the contrary.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed this week that Moscow might use the Iranian nuclear talks to "raise the stakes" over Ukraine, but Wendy Sherman, the United States' lead Iran negotiator, said at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Thursday that Ryabkov had shown no signs of that during two and a half days of deliberations in Vienna.

"During the negotiations he was completely focused on the negotiation," Sherman said. "There was no hint whatsoever that what was happening on the larger stage was impacting his conduct during the negotiations. Everyone was focused on the task at hand," she added.

Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency Thursday that Russia "wouldn't like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes taking into account the sentiments in some European capitals, Brussels and Washington. But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures here as well.

"The historic importance of what happened in the last weeks and days regarding the restoration of historical justice and reunification of Crimea with Russia is incomparable to what we are dealing with in the Iranian issue," he added.

Sherman said she hoped that "Russia will continue to maintain its focus where it matters. It is in Russia's interest that Iran not have a nuclear weapon, so I would suggest that they would follow through on that interest," she said.

"Just as I believe that it is in Russia's interest for peace and harmony in the world to uphold the U.N. Charter, the Budapest Agreement, to uphold international norms and laws, not to take aggressive acts in someone's sovereign territory," she added. "It is critical that the United States and the world community urge Russia to act in what are its true international interests, not at any given moment."

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    Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71

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