A U.S. State Department official says he believes there is international consensus for sanctions against Iran if Tehran refuses to suspend its nuclear enrichment program. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns made his comments to a Senate panel just hours before separate speeches at the United Nations by President Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Undersecretary Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that any sanctions against Iran would initially seek to curb Tehran's access to civilian technologies that could help it build nuclear bombs. Such action, he said, has the support of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States - and Germany, as well.
"Those sanctions in their first phase, and there may be multiple phases of graduated sanctions on Iran, should be focused on their leadership, and should be focused on their nuclear program, and should be designed to curtain the kind of dual-use exports that we believe make it possible for the Iranians to conduct nuclear research by using technologies that are now permissible under the international trade guidelines," he added. "We believe we have unity among the perm-five countries and Germany to do this."
China, Russia and France, all having veto powers on the Security Council, have long been reluctant to press sanctions against Iran.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, underscored that any sanctions against Iran must be designed to sustain the broadest possible support over potentially many years.
"If the sanctions regime lacks the full commitment of the international community, it is more likely to be undermined by leakage and corruption," he said.
Undersecretary Burns echoed comments made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier in the day, saying the United States is committed to diplomacy, but emphasizing that Washington will not join any negotiations until Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment activities.
The United States believes Iran is using its nuclear program to build a bomb. Iran argues the program is aimed at generating electricity.