Gates expects UN sanctions on Iran 'very soon'
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he expects new United Nations sanctions on Iran over its atomic programme to be agreed "very soon".
Speaking hours before the UN Security Council was set to resume to discuss a draft resolution, he said it was not too late to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear bomb.
Gates said he was hopeful "a resolution will be passed very soon," when asked about diplomatic efforts in New York.
"The faster it can be passed the better," he told a press conference in London after talks with British Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
On Iran's alleged efforts to develop an atomic bomb, he said: "I don't think we've lost the opportunity to stop the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons.
But he called for international cooperation in dealing with the Islamic republic, warning: "The clock is ticking."
The key was to persuade Iran's leaders that pursuing a nuclear programme will undermine their country's security, by setting off reactions from countries across the region, he said.
The UN Security Council was to hold fresh talks later Tuesday on a fourth sanctions resolution against Iran over its atomic programme -- which the West fears is a cover for nuclear weapons.
The council's five permanent members -- Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States -- are co-sponsoring the sanctions draft and believe they have enough support to get it passed in a vote as early as Wednesday.
Gates spoke before a high-ranking Russian official close to the talks said in Moscow that the latest UN resolution against Iran had been fully agreed and no problems remained ahead of its adoption.
The Pentagon chief said the UN sanctions were designed as a legal platform that would allow individual countries or organisations such as the European Union to take additional, tougher measures to pile pressure on Tehran,
Once the UN resolution is adopted, "a number of nations are prepared to act pretty promptly," he said.
The British defence secretary said the resolution would send a signal that "the entire global community" was united against Iran's nuclear programme, amid concerns Tehran could trigger a regional atomic arms race.
Earlier Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that his country would not hold further talks over its nuclear programme if it was slapped with sanctions.
"I have said that the US government and its allies are mistaken if they think they can brandish the stick of resolution and then sit down to talk with us, such a thing will not happen," he warned at a conference in Turkey.
A Turkish diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity that Ankara was trying to persuade Iran not to leave the table even if sanctions were imposed.
© 2010 AFP