Obama: I'm Seeking Iran Sanctions "Within Weeks"

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 Following a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday, President Obama said he is seeking to have sanctions against Iran in place this spring -- and that ideally the United Nations sanctions regime would be in place "within weeks."

"Do we have unanimity in the international community? Not yet," said the president. "And that's something we need to work on."

Still, he said, the situation is better than it was one year ago, when the White House began reaching out to Iran through what Mr. Obama described as a "very clear" diplomatic approach that was "an open book to the world."

The president said that some countries had been resistant to sanctions because Iran is an oil-producing country, and said that for those countries, "their commercial interests are more important to them than these long term geopolitical interests."

But he said the United States was committed to sanctions unless Iran changes course, and that the country was "working diligently with our international partners" to achieve them.

"The long term consequences of a nuclear armed Iran are unacceptable," he said, adding that a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East could have severe negative consequences.

Sarkozy, speaking after Mr. Obama, added that "Iran cannot continue its mad race" toward nuclear weapons.

Mr. Obama had originally set a deadline of the end of last year for sanctions.

Mr. Obama said he and Sarkozy "reaffirmed the enduring ties" between their two countries in their meeting before the remarks, and that they discussed financial regulatory reform, climate change, "rejecting protectionism" and other issues.

On the effort to keep Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, Mr. Obama said the two men were "united" and "inseparable."

"When it comes to America's oldest ally, we've never been closer," said the president.

There was no discussion at the press availability of Mr. Obama requesting that Sarkozy deploy more troops to Afghanistan, a possibility that had been widely discussed in the days before the meeting.

Sarkozy did address Afghanistan, saying the French support Mr. Obama's strategy there and adding that "we cannot afford to lose -- not for us, not for the people of Afghanistan, who deserve to live in freedom."

"What we are fighting for is world security, quite simply," he added.

France currently has 3,750 soldiers in Afghanistan, and the Obama administration had anticipated that the country would add hundreds more in conjunction with the U.S. increase in forces announced in December. Thus far, France has only said it would send 80 additional military trainers. 

Mr. Obama and Sarkozy are scheduled to have dinner together Tuesday night, along with their wives. 

Earlier in the day, Sarkozy met with Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In a speech at Columbia University Monday night, Sarkozy weighed in on the health care reform debate that recently wrapped up in the United States.

"The very fact that there should have been such a violent debate simply on the fact that the poorest of Americans should not be left out in the streets without a cent to look after them ... is something astonishing to us," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Added Sarkozy: "Welcome to the club of states who don't turn their back on the sick and the poor."

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