General James Mattis
General James Mattis Photo by AP
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The top U.S. commander in the Middle East warned Tuesday that sanctions and diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities are not working.

Meanwhile, Iran said on Tuesday said that it would consider the International Atomic Energy Agency's demands for renewed inspections only after its nuclear rights were recognized.

General James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran has a history of denial and deceit and is enriching uranium beyond any plausible peaceful purpose. While it may still be possible to use sanctions and other pressure to bring Tehran to its senses, he added, Iran is using the negotiations to buy time.

Asked if America can bring Iran to its knees, Mattis said the United States has a number of ways to do that, even short of open conflict. Over in Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that "Certain demands should be balanced, and hence require further agreements, such as recognition of Iran's rights to pursue peaceful nuclear programs." He was referring to a renewed demand by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano on Monday for Iran to allow inspections of the Parchin military complex, where, according to Western intelligence agencies, nuclear weapons parts have been tested.

"Whenever our nuclear rights are acknowledged, we will be ready to remove all international concerns" about our nuclear program, Mehmanparast added. At the IAEA in Vienna, the six key countries negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program urged the Islamic Republic to start cooperating with the nuclear agency's inspectors.

The group, known as the P5+1, also said it was "deeply concerned" about Iran's new efforts to install next-generation centrifuges for enriching uranium, as well as ongoing construction work of a reactor in Arak that would produce plutonium as a by-product. The group fears that Iran could build a nuclear weapon using either uranium or plutonium. Tehran denies having any such plans.

The Iranian spokesman also clarified remarks by Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi, who had said on Sunday, following last week's nuclear negotiations in Almaty with the P5+1, that sanctions against Iran would gradually be lifted. "What the foreign minister meant was that there has been a more logical and, hence, positive approach by the six countries," Mehmanparast said. Therefore, the prospect of settling the dispute, including the sanctions, had improved.