WASHINGTON - The Obama administration was taking its case against Iran to the world Wednesday, trying to stir up an international response to charges that the Islamic republic plotted to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.
"It's critically important that we unite the world in the isolation of and dealing with the Iranians," Vice President Joe Biden said on "The Early Show" Wednesday. "That's the surest way to be able to get results."
Mr. Obama's top national security aides have said the administration will lobby for the imposition of new international sanctions as well as for individual nations to expand their own penalties against Iran.
The State Department sent a cable to all American embassies and consulates around the world telling them to put the Iran case before their host governments. The officials said the cable, sent late Tuesday by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and classified secret, tells them to detail the evidence against Iran as presented by federal prosecutors.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the classified cable, said the document instructs diplomats to ask nations to consider appropriate steps in response to the alleged scheme. The cable does not suggest any specific measures against Iran, the officials said.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is to individually brief members of the U.N. Security Council on the foiled plot Wednesday, the officials said.
Biden said that U.S. action against Iran could go beyond sanctions, but added that "we're not going there yet."
Biden said the Iranians "have not only decided to assassinate someone, they have taken on the basis in which ... nations deal with one another." However, he refused to speculate on whether the alleged plot was undertaken at the behest of the upper reaches of Iran's government
In other broadcast interviews Wednesday, Biden called the purported plot "really over the top."
Other top administration officials expressed similar sentiments.
In comments Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the plot signaled aof Iran's support for terrorism.
In an Associated Press interview Tuesday, Clinton said "this really, in the minds of many diplomats and government officials, crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for."
She said she and President Barack Obama want to "enlist more countries in working together against what is becoming a clearer and clearer threat" from Iran.
"The U.S. began to brief individual members of the Security Council on Tuesday about the Iranian plot, diplomats on the council said, anticipating support for a council meeting and a new round of tougher sanctions on Iran," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, from the U.N.
"Although China initially opposed a new round of sanctions on Iran, they have formed a closer trade relationship with Saudi Arabia in recent years and if they are forced to chose between their dislike for sanctions and their relationship with the Saudis, their support for a resolution might be in play," Falk reports.
Britain's government said Wednesday it was consulting with the U.S. and others over new international sanctions against Iran. "We would support any measures that help hold Iran accountable for its actions," said Steve Field, spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Clinton and other U.S. officials said the alleged plot is a gross violation of international law and further proof that Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, a label Washington has for decades applied to the Iranian government. The officials said it also underscores concerns that despite its denials Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program.
"The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador? Nobody could make that up, right?" Clinton said shortly after U.S. prosecutors accused two suspected Iranian agents of trying to murder Saudi envoy Adel Al-Jubeir. The purported plan was to carry out the assassination with a bomb attack while Al-Jubeir dined at his favorite restaurant.