U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that Iran's continuing refusal to provide more information on its nuclear program has left the international community little choice but to impose new, tough sanctions on Tehran.
In congressional testimony, Clinton said Iran's failure to accept the Obama administration's offers of engagement and prove its nuclear intentions are peaceful had given the U.S. and its partners new resolve in pressuring Tehran to comply with international demands through fresh penalties.
"We have pursued a dual-track approach to Iran that has exposed its refusal to live up to its responsibilities and helped us achieve a new unity with our international partners," she told the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"Iran has left the international community little choice but to impose greater costs and pressure in the face of its provocative steps," Clinton said. "We are now working actively with our partners to prepare and implement new measures to pressure Iran to change its course."
The U.S. and others believe Iran is hiding nuclear weapons development under the guise of a civilian energy program. Iran insists that its intentions are peaceful.
Iran has formally set out its terms for giving up most of its cache of enriched uranium in a confidential document - and the conditions fall short of what has been demanded by the United States and other world powers.
Tehran has said it is ready to hand over the bulk of its stockpile, as called for under a deal brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency and endorsed by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.
But Iran adds that it must simultaneously receive fuel rods for its research reactor in return, and that such an exchange must take place on Iranian territory.
Clinton addressed the possibility that Congress may impose its own sanctions on Iran, besides those the U.S. is seeking through the United Nations Security Council. If Congress does that, Clinton said, it should leave the administration enough flexibility to continue the separate UN track.
Congressional sanctions might be tougher than any the United States could win international approval for at the UN, but the United States wants international backing for its tough stance against Iran and sees the UN penalties as a powerful symbol of world resolve against an Iranian bomb.
Diplomat: Russia says it won't support 'crippling' sanctions
Russia earlier Wednesday said it would not support "crippling" sanctions against Iran, including any that may be slapped on the Islamic Republic's banking or energy sectors, a senior Russian diplomat said.
"We are not got going to work on sanctions or measures which could lead to the political or economic or financial isolation of this country," Oleg Rozhkov, deputy director of the security affairs and disarmament department at Russia's Foreign Ministry, told reporters.
"What relation to non-proliferation is there in forbidding banking activities with Iran? This is a financial blockade. And oil and gas. These sanctions are aimed only at paralysing the country and paralysing the regime."
Iran has the world's second-largest crude oil reserves, but desperately needs investment to develop them. It denies working to develop a nuclear warhead but insists on its right to create nuclear power-generating capacity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow last week to press the Kremlin to back tougher sanctions against Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons project.
This week, Netanyahu called for an immediate embargo on Iran's energy sector.
In a new twist on the international community's effort to reign in Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Japan has offered to enrich uranium on Iran's behalf, the AFP news agency reported on Wednesday.
Iran has not yet responded officially but its parliament speaker Ali Larijani is expected to discuss the offer in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Tokyo on Wednesday, the agency said, quoting the Japanese-language Nikkei business daily.
A previous deal offered by Russia and France to enrich and process Iranian nuclear fuel failed to materialize after Iran refused to send the greater part of its stock of low-enriched uranium - some 400 kilograms - abroad in a single consignment.
Japan offers to enrich Iran's uranium
Japan's offer was first mooted in December following approval from the United States, during a visit to Tokyo by Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, the Japanese paper said.
On Tuesday the U.S. warned Iran that "patience is running out" over its nuclear program, adding that Tehran has shown no interest in addressing the West's fears over its controversial uranium enrichment.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs repeated U.S. warnings of "consequences" if Iran continues to enrich uranium.
"It is clear that the continuing announcements and pronouncements that are made in Iran demonstrate that they have no interest in building international confidence that their nuclear program is for peaceful means," Gibbs added.
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