U.S. Places Iran Nuclear Issue on Pressure Track

Top U.S. general David Petraeus says Iran has been given every opportunity to resolve the issue diplomatically.

The United States is placing its efforts to thwart the Iranian nuclear program on a "pressure track," head of U.S. Central Command general David Petraeus said in an interview to a U.S. network on Sunday.

Speaking to NBC's "Meet the Press," Petraeus said that he thought "that no one at the end of this time can say that the United States and the rest of the world have not given Iran every opportunity to resolve the issues diplomatically."

"That puts us in a solid foundation now to go on what is termed the pressure track," the U.S. general said, adding that "that's the course on which we are embarked now."

The United States is leading a push for a fourth round of United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran because of suspicions it is secretly developing a nuclear arsenal.

Washington has been supported from fellow Security Council members Britain and France, while Russia, which has been more reluctant to impose more sanctions, has said it was now "very alarmed" by a recent IAEA report which said Iran may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile.

Iran denies it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and says the accusations of Western countries are baseless.

Asked on how close Iran was to reaching nuclear capabilities, Petraeus said that "it is certainly a ways off, and we'll probably hear more on that from the International Atomic Energy Agency when it meets here in the, in the next week or so."

"There's no question that some of those activities have advanced during that time. There's also a new National Intelligence Estimate being developed by our intelligence community in the United States. We have over the course of the last year, of course, pursued the engagement track."

"The UN Security Council countries, of course, expressing their concern. Russia now even piling on with that," Petraeus said.

"We will have to see where that goes and whether that can, indeed, send the kind of signal to Iran about the very serious concerns that the countries in the region and, indeed, the entire world have about Iran's activities in the nuclear program and in its continued arming, funding, training, equipping and directing of proxy extremist elements that still carry out attacks," the U.S. general added.

When asked whether a single country, even if that country is the United States, stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, Petraeus said that the U.S. would "have to embark on the pressure track next," adding it was the job of combatant commanders to consider the what-ifs, to be prepared for contingency plans."

"I'm not saying this in a provocative way. I'm merely saying that we have responsibilities, the American people and our commander-in-chief and so forth expect us to think those through and to be prepared for the what-ifs. And we try not to be irresponsible in that regard," the central command chief said.

On Saturday French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said world powers would have to take new action against Iran in the next few weeks if Tehran continues to reject Western proposals on its disputed nuclear program.

Fillon said he was worried by a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week which said

"We have read the new report (on Iran) by the IAEA...and it is very worrying," Fillon told a news conference in Damascus alongside his Syrian counterpart Naji al-Otari.

"We proposed dialogue to Iran for several months and for the moment all the propositions have been turned down," he said. "If the situation does not change, we have no other solution but to look into new measures in the coming weeks."

China has so far resisted imposing more sanctions.