Iran's unwillingness to negotiate with the international community could give rise to a "nuclear arms race in the Middle East," the United States Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday.
Tehran's hard-line Islamic regime has so far shunned all offers to subject its nuclear program to international scrutiny, leading many to question whether it is really intended only for peaceful purposes, as Iran's leaders profess.
"Iran's nuclear program violates its obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and risks sparking a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," Biden warned during a keynote speech at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Israel, which is widely thought to have already developed its own nuclear weapons, has repeatedly hinted that it would be ready to strike first to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.
Biden said he and U.S. President Barack Obama had "embarked on an unprecedented path of engagement with Iranian leaders," but added that they "scorned our collective good faith efforts and continue to take actions which threaten regional stability."
The US vice president said it would be "ironic" if, while the fall of the Iron Curtain had diminished the threat of "mutually assured destruction among the superpowers ... a new arms race would emerge in some of the most unstable parts of the world."
"Our children and grandchildren would not forgive us for allowing it to pass," he stressed.
The United Nation's Security Council has been talking for months about increased sanctions against Iran as a result of its defiance on the nuclear issue.
Biden said the country's rulers face "a stark choice: abide by international rules and rejoin the community of responsible nations, which we hope for, or face further consequences and increasing isolation."
He also said the U.S. was "committed to the security of [its] allies," including through the controversial missile defense system planned in Eastern Europe, and would work within NATO "to prepare for a range of future security threats."
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