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Published: Friday April 18, 2014 MYT 6:13:13 AM
Updated: Friday April 18, 2014 MYT 6:13:13 AM

Obama: Ukraine diplomacy holds hope but sanctions ready

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday talks between Russia and Western powers aimed at ending tensions in Ukraine have potential but that the United States and its allies are prepared to impose more sanctions on Russia if the situation fails to improve.

"I don't think we can be sure of anything at this point," he told reporters at a news conference. "There is the possibility, the prospect, that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation."

However, Obama said he has been in close consultation with European allies and that a new round of sanctions is ready to go if Russia fails to help restore order in the east and south of Ukraine. Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the day and would talk later with British Prime Minister David Cameron, he said.

"We have put in place additional consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see actual improvement of the situation on the ground," Obama said.

He said Western powers would weigh Russia's actions in the coming days before making any decisions.

"My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but I don't think given past performance that we can count on that," he said. "And we have to be prepared that we can actually respond to what continue to be efforts of interference by the Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine."

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Eric Beech and Bill Trott)

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