U.S. official: World sees need to sanction Iran
UN official says Security Council could discuss new round of Iran sanctions in two months.
The international community realizes that there are consequences to Iran's continued defiance of the international community regarding its contentious nuclear program, a State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.
"We are exploring a range of options to achieve our objectives of securing Iran's compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UNSCR resolutions," the official said.
Referring to recent comments made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the U.S. stance over Iran's nuclear program, the official said that Washington believed "that there is growing understanding in the international community that Iran should face consequences for its defiance of international obligations regarding its nuclear program."
In a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday, Clinton had said that "Iran is not living up to its responsibilities and we are working with our partners in the international community to increase pressure on Iran to change course."
Also on Tuesday, Gabon's UN envoy said that the UN Security Council might take up this month the issue of Iran's nuclear program and Western proposals for a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran.
Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said the Iranian nuclear issue was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel this month, but council members might still hold a meeting on it.
"We think the question could come to the table [in March]," Issoze-Ngondet told reporters through an interpreter. "But right now we are waiting. We're following the process that's ongoing. We're waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, Western diplomats told Reuters the United States, Britain, France and Germany have prepared a draft proposal -- which they hope China and Russia will support - for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program.
The four Western powers had hoped to secure an agreement among the six as early as this week, so they could submit it to the full Security Council for discussion. But it has been difficult getting China to negotiate, the diplomats said.
"We still don't know what China thinks," a diplomat told Reuters.
China and Russia have close business ties to Tehran, but Moscow has indicated its willingness to support further punitive measures against the Islamic Republic, which rejects Western allegations that its nuclear program is a cover for developing the capability to build atomic weapons.
Earlier Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on there was still room for diplomacy rather than sanctions to produce a solution to the dispute with Iran over its nuclear program.
"We will concentrate all efforts on finding political and diplomatic solutions. These efforts have not yet been exhausted," Lavrov told journalists during a trip to Paris.
Lavrov said his comments were in line with a statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who on Monday said Moscow would back new sanctions against Iran as long as they did not create a humanitarian crisis. Lavrov is accompanying Medvedev on an official visit to France for talks that touched on Iran sanctions.
After meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Medvedev said he still hoped to avoid new punitive measures, but added Russia could not wait forever for cooperation by Tehran, suspected by the West of developing nuclear weapons.
Both Russia and China have been reluctant in the past to endorse any broader sanctions against Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons.
A draft fourth Security Council resolution is expected as soon as this week. Some Western diplomats have predicted it would contain a "symbolic" tightening of sanctions against Iranian government assets.
'Iran is a runaway train, the world a broken-down car'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday likened Iran's nuclear developments to a runaway train and the international community a car on the brink of collapsing.
"There is a technological clock and a diplomatic clock," Netanyahu told a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "The technological clock is like a runaway train and the international community like a car that is about to decouple."
The prime minister said that world powers were in agreement over this sentiment, and that efforts to stop this phenomenon have increased over the last year.
He said that an Israeli delegation dispatched to China of late was focused on clarifying the problems posed by Iran's policies, and described Israel and China as having a "wide range of mutual interests."
The prime minister added that he had been unable to secure Russia's support for harsher sanctions against Iran during his recent visit to Moscow, but said he witnessed "more understanding there regarding the dangers the Iranian nuclear program poses to us, to regional peace and world stability."