U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that American concerns over Iran's suspected atomic weapons program are shared by the Islamic republic's neighbors.
Speaking to journalists about talks due to start between major powers and Iran on Monday, Clinton said, "There is no debate in the international community, and perhaps the Iranians will engage seriously ... on what is a concern shared by nations on every continent, but most particularly right here in the region.
"Because obviously if you're the neighbor of a country that is pursuing nuclear weapons, that is viewed in a much more threatening way than if you're a concerned country many thousand of miles away. But the concern is the same and we hope that Iran will respond."
Clinton is in Bahrain to open the annual Manama Dialogue organized by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, which this year draws prime ministers, defense ministers, military officials, intelligence chiefs and private sector heads from across the region.
The meeting, billed as the "most important regional security meeting in the Middle East and an excellent anchor for regional security diplomacy," comes as U.S. diplomacy reels amid a storm of anger from foreign governments scrutinized in State Department cables published by WikiLeaks.
Some of the most prominent headlines highlighted widespread fears among Arab countries in the Gulf about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program and their calls to nip it in the bud.
Perhaps most famously, Saudi King Abdullah was quoted in a cable saying the United States should "cut off the head of the snake."
And this weekend's host, Bahrain's King Hamad, told U.S. General David Petraeus the Iranian "program must be stopped ... The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.
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.
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.(AFP)
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