U.S. President Barack Obama said there would be more sanctions imposed on Iran if there is no breakthrough in nuclear talks with global powers in the coming months, responding to Israeli accusations that Tehran has been given a "freebie."
At a news conference marking the close of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, Obama said negotiations between Iran and six world powers that resumed on Saturday would not stretch on indefinitely and would require Iran to act.
"We're going to keep on seeing if we make progress. Now, the clocking is ticking and I've been very clear to Iran and to our negotiating partners that we're not going to have these talks just drag out in a stalling process," Obama said. "But so far at least we haven't given away anything."
His assessment came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday had said the U.S. and world powers gave Tehran a "freebie" by agreeing to hold more talks next month.
"My initial impression is that Iran has been given a freebie. It's got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition," Netanyahu said earlier on Sunday, adding that it was critical that Tehran stop enrichment right away.
Obama shot back: "The notion that somehow we've given something away or a 'freebie' would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they've got some of the toughest sanctions that they're going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don't take advantage of these talks."
Negotiators from Iran and six world powers met on Saturday for the first time in more than a year to discuss concerns about Tehran's nuclear program, which Iran says is for energy and others fear is meant to build an atomic bomb.
The group, which included the United States and the other four permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany, agreed with Iran to reconvene in Baghdad on May 23.
Over the past year, Israeli and U.S. warnings of military strikes if Iran does not stop working on some aspects of nuclear technology have stoked fear of war, and raised oil prices, in an unsettled Middle East.
Obama, who is up for re-election in November, is unlikely to want to start a military dispute with Iran, especially as he works to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan and in the wake of an unpopular war in Iraq.
At the Colombia news conference, Obama said there was still time for talks to ease tensions surrounding Iran."We still have a window in which to resolve this conflict diplomatically. That window is closing and Iran needs to take advantage of it," he said.
Meanwhile, Iran called on the world powers to prepare a road map for next month's meeting in Baghdad to discuss Tehran's nuclear agenda, Fars news agency on Monday quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi as saying.
"The two sides' experts should prepare a road map for clarifying what steps should be taken before next month's nuclear meeting in Baghdad, and already enabling the start of the trust-making process," Salehi said.
Salehi refrained to give any details on what should be included in the road map but said it could make the negotiations in Baghdad easier and faster.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now