The Senate committee that oversees U.S. banking heard testimony yesterday about the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions on Iran. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on a new resolution toughening the existing sanctions. Meanwhile, Iranian leaders remain defiant in the face of international pressure to suspend nuclear enrichment. VOA's Sean Maroney reports.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warns that his country will continue to pursue its nuclear agenda outside international regulations. "Until today what we have done has been in accordance with international regulations, but if they take illegal actions, we too can take illegal actions and we will do so."
The ayatollah also warns that Iran will respond to any attack by its enemies.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department's Nicholas Burns said the United States and its allies are walking a fine line with Iran but that the outcome should be peaceful. "I for one believe that conflict with Iran is not inevitable. It is not inevitable if we play our cards right and are smart about the application of diplomacy."
Burns told members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that U.S. sanctions on Iran are working. He added that other countries are also reevaluating their business practices.
Under Secretary Stuart Levey credited the Treasury Department with consulting both foreign governments and the private sector about the risks of working with Iran. He said Iran uses invested money for ulterior purposes.
"It uses front companies to engage in what are ostensibly innocent commercial transactions but that are actually related to its WMD programs."
Burns stressed that the United States and its allies are moving against the Iranian government and not the Iranian people. He mentioned, as an example, allowing Iranian professionals to visit the United States. "The Iranian people tend to like Americans and so we want to accentuate that people-to-people contact while we stiff arm, block, contain [and] oppose the policies of the Iranian government."
The U.N. Security Council is discussing this week a draft resolution that would toughen existing sanctions against Iran for its failure to suspend uranium enrichment.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of working to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this and says its program is peaceful.