UNITED NATIONS - U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to redouble efforts to implement sanctions against Iran, saying tougher action could slow the country's nuclear program and "show Iran there is a price to pay for its deception."
Iran is subject to four rounds of U.N. sanctions because of concerns it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Tehran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and exists only to produce energy for civilian use.
Rice pointed to a report last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency which concluded that some alleged clandestine work by Iran could not be used for any other purpose than making nuclear arms.
"No one, after reading the November report, can reasonably believe Iran's contention that its continuing uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only," she said, adding that the IAEA board's censure of Iran showed that its "illicit nuclear activities are unacceptable."
Rice called on the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iran and its panel of experts to act "robustly" in implementing sanctions and investigating violations.
The sanctions, which have chipped away at Iran's economy, ban Iranian arms exports, prohibit the import of several categories of heavy weapons, bar Iranian investment in uranium mining, ban the import of nuclear and missile-related materials, and freeze the assets of key individuals, organizations and companies involved in nuclear and missile activities.
Rice said adding more individuals and entities to the sanctions blacklist "would send a powerful signal of the committee's commitment to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions." She also said those who violate sanctions should face targeted sanctions.
But the U.S. ambassador stressed that "sanctions are only a means to an end."
Rice said full implementation of sanctions will not only slow Iran's nuclear program but buy more time to resolve the nuclear crisis through diplomatic means.
China and Russia both called for stepped up diplomatic efforts and a new round of talks between Iran and six nations trying to rein in its nuclear program. The last round of talks between Iran and the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany ended in failure in January.
Rice said the "ultimate goal" of the United States is to ensure that Iran complies with all its international nuclear obligations and resolves outstanding questions from the IAEA.
"In the face of Iran's deception and intransigence, the international community must speak with one voice, making clear that Iranian actions jeopardize international peace and security and will only further isolate the regime," she said.