Iran could steal focus of nuclear summit

Senior administration officials are stressing that this week's nuclear security summit is focused on the threat of nuclear terrorism, but the White House might find that its thunder is stolen by questions about Iran.

President Barack Obama's summit in Washington, with heads of state and official representatives from 47 countries, is set up to discuss and find agreement in ways to prevent nuclear materials from ending up the hands of terrorists.

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But given Obama's recent tough talk on Iran, missed deadlines for sanctions and some positive developments from Russia, Iranian sanctions will be the underlying theme that analysts and observers are watching.

Adding to that intrigue is Chinese President Hu Jintao's bilateral meeting with Obama.

The White House was thrilled last week when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appeared to endorse sanctions on Iran, even if the endorsement was somewhat lukewarm.

China and Russia have been reluctant to join the U.S. and the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council because of energy concerns.

Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, noted on Friday that Iran "is an issue that is separate from the agenda of the summit."

But Rhodes conceded that Iran "will be the subject at some of the president's bilats, as it was with President Medvedev."

Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in September of last year they wanted to see sanctions in place by the end of the year.

Obama returned to that theme, despite the missed deadline, by saying in an appearance with Sarkozy earlier this month that he wants to see UN sanctions in place this spring.