Iran Risks Sanctions for Nuke Program
PITTSBURGH - President Barack Obama sternly warned Iran on Friday to "come clean" about its nuclear program at talks set for next week or face tough sanctions imposed by world leaders.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a two-day economic summit here, Obama said Iran's construction of a second nuclear fuel enrichment facility - revealed by U.S., British and French intelligence this week - has united world leaders.
"We have never been more united in demanding that Iran live up to its responsibilities," Obama said. "Iran is on notice that when we meet with them on Oct. 1, they are going to have to come clean, and they are going to have to make a choice."
If those talks in Geneva don't result in Iran backing down, Obama said sanctions would follow.
"When we find that diplomacy does not work, we will be in a much stronger position to ½lcub¾hellip½rcub¾ apply sanctions that bite," he said.
Obama's warning to the Islamic republic followed a day of talks with Group of 20 leaders that was intended to focus on the global economic crisis. The G-20 summit, however, was overshadowed by the disclosure about Iran's nuclear program.
Now all signs point to a showdown Thursday, when Iran is set to meet with the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The nuclear facility will be the main topic of the meeting.
The disclosure could represent a setback for Iran's nuclear program and pressure Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to back down, the United States and its allies said.
"The Iranians are raising the stakes and advancing their position ahead of the negotiations," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. "We're reaching a moment of truth."
Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy disclosed the existence of the site Friday morning, just as the G-20 summit was to begin in earnest. Germany, Russia and China had been informed in recent days, during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
Obama, Brown and Sarkozy accused Iran of repeated efforts to hide its nuclear sites and demanded accountability.
"Iran's nuclear program is the most urgent proliferation challenge that the world faces today," Brown said. "The level of deception by the Iranian government ... will shock and anger the whole international community, and it will harden our resolve."
Whether Russia and China eventually go along with tougher sanctions is unclear. Russia issued a statement Friday expressing support for an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency but stopped short of endorsing new sanctions. China said sanctions are "not the way to solve problems."
The underground nuclear enrichment plant has been closely watched by intelligence agencies for years, but only this week did Iran realize its secrecy had been breached. At that point, the U.S. and allies decided to brief the IAEA, which demanded to inspect the facility.
"The size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program," Obama said. "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow."
As the revelations were being discussed here, Ahmadinejad told Time magazine in New York that he wasn't hiding anything. "We have no secrecy," he said in an interview. "We do everything transparently."
The uranium-enrichment facility, south of Tehran near Qum, is a few months away from being operational, said two senior administration officials who briefed reporters here. They refused to speak on the record in order to talk freely about sensitive issues.
The facility is designed to hold about 3,000 centrifuges, compared to about 8,000 at Iran's cavernous underground facility outside the southern city of Natanz, which was discovered in 2002, according to one of the officials.
The news of the uranium enrichment facility comes after three days of meetings at the United Nations, in which Iran denied seeking nuclear weapons. Those denials now will be part of the discussions in Geneva.
"Everything, everything must be put on the table now," Sarkozy said. "We cannot let Iranian leaders gain time while the motors are running."
The Islamic nation already is operating under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to stop its enrichment program. Until now, it has admitted only to one nuclear enrichment plant, which remains under construction and is monitored regularly.
"Iran must be prepared to cooperate fully and comprehensively with the IAEA," Obama said. "They must demonstrate through deeds their peaceful intentions."
Some congressional leaders sounded more impatient. House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said the U.S. should not participate in direct talks with Iran and must be willing to impose more sanctions even if Russia and China don't go along.
"This revelation should put the international community on notice that its collective willingness to give the Iranian regime 'one more chance' is not working," Boehner said.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also called for new sanctions.
"Tehran must make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to continue its pariah status or enter a more constructive relationship with the world," he said.
And Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a proponent of tougher sanctions against Iran, said "we have no idea what other aspects of its nuclear bomb project it may be working on in secret."