Clinton: U.S. has no plan to strike Iran over nuclear program
Iran: We will never give up enrichment at any price; Netanyahu: Watered-down sanctions not enough.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is not planning a military strike on Iran over its nuclear program, in a television interview broadcast on Wednesday.
"Obviously, we don't want Iran to become a nuclear weapons power, but we are not planning anything other than going for sanctions," Clinton told Al-Arabiya television.
"What we are focusing on is trying to change Iranian behavior, and the international community has been united in trying to send a message to Iran that it is time for it to clarify its intentions," she said.
"We want to try to get the strongest sanctions we can out of the United Nations Security Council...mostly to influence their decision-making," Clinton added.
She said the Obama administration believes "the better approach is to join at the international community, to work together toward sanctions, to exert maximum pressure on the Iranians, and to try every way we can to change their thinking."
Iran earlier Wednesday said it will not give up uranium enrichment and the West must get used to an Iran that is a "master of enrichment," Tehran's envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog was quoted as saying.
Iran was "always ready to talk in a civilized manner," Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in an interview with New Statesman, a British current affairs magazine.
"But the West just has to cope with a strong Iran, a country with thousands of years of civilization, that is now the master of enrichment. I know it is hard for them to digest, but it is the reality," he said.
"Iran will never give up enrichment - at any price. Even the threat of military attack will not stop us," the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
New Statesman said the interview was conducted in Vienna "one recent Sunday" but did not give the date.
Iran says its nuclear program is for electricity generation. Tehran announced this month it had begun work to enrich uranium to a higher grade for a reactor making isotopes for cancer patients, further raising Western concerns that it might build a nuclear bomb.
Western powers had offered Iran a fuel swap under which it would have sent much of its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel rods for the medical reactor.
The United States is leading a push for the UN Security Council to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear work.
Soltanieh said the language of threats reflected a "colonialist mentality."
"By threatening Iran with the Security Council, with sanctions, with military action, you are just making life more difficult for yourself - it doesn't work," he said.
Soltanieh said U.S. President Barack Obama had come to power with a slogan for change.
"Whether he can translate those words into action, we will have to see. So far, Obama has been unable to deliver, and on occasion has resorted to using the same language of threats as [former President] George W. Bush. This is very disappointing," he said.
Obama came to office vowing to break with Bush's policy of seeking to isolate Iran. But he has taken a tougher stance since the disputed elections there last June and the passing of a deadline for Tehran to accept the fuel swap deal.
Netanyahu: Watered-down sanctions not enough
The 'gap in understanding' between Israel and the world over Iran is narrowing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
Disputed elections in Iran and the uncovering of a secret uranium enrichment plant near the Iranian city of Qom had alerted the world to the growing Iranian threat, Netanyahu said.
"Now the international community has an obligation to intervene to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," the prime minister told a conference of Jewish leaders from South America.
The world must now act to impose heavy restrictions on Iran, Netanyahu said.
"Watered-down sanctions, modest sanctions, will not do the job," he said adding that new measures must aim to curtail Iran's oil exports and energy supply. (Although an oil producer, Iran has limited refining capacity and imports gasoline).
Israel has urged the United Nations Security Council to impose "crippling" sanctions on Iran, which announced in February that it had begun production of 20-percent-enriched uranium - potentially a significant step towards an atomic bomb.
Recent weeks have seen greater international willingness to act on Iran, with Russia, a veto-wielding Security Council member that had previously opposed sanctions, showing signs of a change in position.
Also on Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted that Israel had not ruled out independent action against Iran.
"The world is very aware that Iran continues to display open hostility and hatred toward the Middle East, through means of funding and the transfer of weaponry to Hezbollah and Hamas," he said in a speech to newly commissioned army officers.
"We are prepared to make firm decisions, for the sake of a better future."