U.S. Preparing Iran Sanctions Within Weeks
President Obama sent a warning to Iran today that the international community stands solidly against its plans for increased uranium enrichment and that the United States is preparing sanctions against the country.
"What we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole," Mr. Obama said during a surprise appearance at the daily White House press briefing today.
Iran's state TV reported this week that the country has started enriching its uranium to a higher level of 20 percent, over the objections of the international community, in order to fuel a research reactor producing medical isotopes. Uranium enriched up to a level of 90 percent can be used to make nuclear weapons.
"That indicates to us that, despite their posturing that their nuclear power is only for civilian use, that they, in fact, continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization, and that is not acceptable to the international community, not just to the United States," he said.
Mr. Obama said that the international community had offered to convert some of their low-enriched uranium into the isotopes needed for medical research but that Iran rejected the offer. While the international community has received mixed signals from Iranian leadership, it is clear they are resisting terms to a compromise on uranium enrichment that Russia, China, Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States all find acceptable, Mr. Obama said.
"I think that we have bent over backwards to say to the Islamic Republic of Iran that we are willing to have a constructive conversation about how they can align themselves with international norms and rules and re-enter as full members of the international community," he said.
Now, Mr. Obama said, the United Nations, the United States and other countries will look at a variety of ways to tell Iran their current actions are unacceptable.
"How China operates at the Security Council as we pursue sanctions is something that we're going to have to see," he said. "One thing I'm pleased about is to see how forward-leaning the Russians have been on this issue. I think they clearly have seen that Iran hasn't been serious about solving what is a solvable dispute between Iran and the international community."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Tuesday the United Nations should slap new sanctions on Iran in "weeks, not months."
Still, Mr. Obama said today, "the door is still open" for Iran to cooperate.
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