AFP: The United States warned Tuesday it would seek to ratchet up pressure and may seek new sanctions on Iran after the UN nuclear watchdog said Tehran had worked on nuclear weapons technology.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States warned Tuesday it would seek to ratchet up pressure and may seek new sanctions on Iran after the UN nuclear watchdog said Tehran had worked on nuclear weapons technology.
A senior US official said Iran must answer concerns raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and said Washington would consult with partners on “additional” pressure and sanctions on the Iranian government.
“We don’t take anything off the table when we look at sanctions. We believe there is a broad spectrum of action we could take,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“We fully anticipate ratcheting up our pressure. We also want to make sure that what we are doing is to coordinate with other countries.”
The official said the Obama administration would seek to continue to raise the price for Iran’s failure to address questions about its nuclear program raised by an IAEA report released on Tuesday.
Another official said that the report echoed “very serious concerns” in Washington about Iran’s nuclear program.
The official particularly highlighted the report’s findings that Iran had carried out a “structured” program under its ministry of defense from the late 1990s to 2003 on developing a nuclear warhead.
The official also expressed concerned that while the report did not say Iran had resumed that program, there were some indications that “activities of concern” could be continuing.
But the official also noted, amid rising international tensions over Iran’s program and fears Israel could mount a preemptive strike against it, that the report did not make an assessment of the exact position of Iran’s program.
“The report does not assert, doesn’t make any judgment about how advanced Iran is in their program,” the official said.
“(It) certainly doesn’t assert that Iran has mastered all the necessary technologies and we agree with that assessment.
“Beyond that I don’t think I can get into any detail about where they are. There are a lot of questions about that.”
The report added to pressure from Obama’s political foes for a more hardline stance from the administration on Iran, at a time when Republican presidential candidates have also accused the White House of being too soft on Tehran.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the report “further proof that the US and other responsible nations must take decisive action to stop the regime from acquiring a nuclear capability.”
Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, called for the US Congress to “ratchet up the pressure” with new sanctions legislation to “cripple” Iran’s ability to pursue its nuclear program.
Republican Senator Mark Kirk called for Washington to take steps towards “collapsing the central bank of Iran” in light of the report.
“If this is not a smoking gun, I don’t know what is,” he said. The administration has so far stopped short of such a step, despite arguing the Iranian economy is being badly hurt by international sanctions.
John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said the report showed that Iran had not been “truthful” about its nuclear program and said he would work with Obama to take whatever steps necessary.
The IAEA said in the report that it had “serious concerns” regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.
“This information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” it said.
The Vienna-based agency said some of its more than 1,000 pages of information indicated Iran has done work “on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components.”
Previous IAEA assessments have centered on Iran’s efforts to produce fissile material — uranium and plutonium — which can be put to peaceful uses like power generation, or be used to make a nuclear bomb.
But the update focuses on Iran’s alleged efforts towards putting the radioactive material in a warhead and developing missiles.
Iran, which says its nuclear program is peaceful and which has been hit by four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, dismissed the new IAEA report prior to its publication, saying it was based on falsified information.