Hillary Clinton offered David Miliband assurances yesterday that plans to re-engage with Iran would proceed one step at a time - and only after heeding concerns from Britain.
The US Secretary of State held talks with the Foreign Secretary, the first with any of her international counterparts, just hours after Iran claimed that it had launched a satellite into orbit using a rocket that the West fears is part of a long-term ballistic missile programme.
“We view Iran as a challenge,” Mrs Clinton said. “And it is one that is not directed solely at the United States, or even at our European allies, but, indeed, the larger region and the world. We are going to be working within the Administration to devise our approach to Iran, and working closely with Her Majesty's Government and the work that the Foreign Secretary and others have already done.”
The announcement of the Iranian satellite launch came a day before diplomats from the UN Permanent Security Council - Britain, the US, Russia, China and France - as well as Germany, are to meet near Frankfurt to review Iran's uranium-enrichment programme.The countries are due to discuss whether to punish Iran for its defiance with fresh sanctions.
The West believes that the programme and the development of ballistic missiles are part of an ambition to build a nuclear weapon that would threaten countries such as Israel. London and Washington voiced their alarm. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said: “This action does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly.”
Britain is among a number of countries who have voiced concerns that Mr Obama's proffered hand of friendship to Iran could undermine the united front built up against Tehran. Mr Miliband, however, said: “It is important that we allow the American Administration to have the time to finalise the details of its policy.”
Mrs Clinton emphasised her determination that America and Britain would continue to “stand side by side confronting global challenges”.