US to put 'additional pressure' on Iran
The United States said Wednesday it is looking at ways to put "additional pressure" on Tehran after the United Nations released a report hardening suspicions that Iran is seeking atomic weapons.
"These are very serious allegations, serious charges, and it's incumbent on Iran to at last engage with the IAEA in a credible and transparent manner to address these concerns," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
President Barack Obama's administration is "going to consult (with allies and partners) and look at ways to impose additional pressure on Iran," Toner told reporters, adding Washington was considering "a range of options" against the Islamic republic.
"I don't want to rule anything out or anything in," he said, adding that unilateral sanctions were a possibility.
The International Atomic Energy Agency disclosed Tuesday it had found "credible" intelligence showing Iran's interest in nuclear weapons -- the first time the UN nuclear watchdog has so explicitly supported claims initially raised by Israel and the United States.
Iran has been subjected to four rounds of UN Security Council resolutions in retaliation for its nuclear program, the latest coming in June 2010 in a resolution expanding the arms embargo and barring the country from sensitive activities like uranium mining.
The following month, Obama signed into law the toughest ever US sanctions on Iran, aimed at choking off Iran's access to imports of refined petroleum products like gasoline and jet fuel and curbing its access to the international banking system.
But the release of the damning IAEA report saw the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany -- a grouping known as the P5+1 -- emerge divided over Iran.
France and Britain joined a US call for an even stronger punishment, while Russia ruled out backing new sanctions and held urgent consultations with its ally.
But Toner insisted that the P5+1 "continues to be very coherent," noting that Washington was in consultations with other members of the group.
"We're all of one mind in our concern over Iran's nuclear program and in our shared goal of having Iran address the international community's concerns about it," he added.
Tehran meanwhile said the country stands "ready for useful and positive talks" on its nuclear program as long as they are held on the basis of equality and respect.
Earlier, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had reacted with a more defiant tone, saying Iran "will not budge an iota" on its nuclear program, which he insists is for peaceful ends to produce electricity for civilian purposes.
© 2011 AFP