Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, visiting Brussels for talks with European Union and NATO allies, warned Tehran its failure to cooperate with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency would lead to Iran's further isolation. Iran has rejected the latest U.N. Security Council resolution and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he'll retaliate by cutting back cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Teri Schultz spoke with Burns in Brussels and has this report for VOA.
The State Department's point man on Iran, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, suggests Tehran's reaction to stricter sanctions is another move in the wrong direction.
"That's an unfortunate response from the Iranian government," he said. "When you're in a hole, stop digging. They're in a hole. That was a major repudiation of Iran the other day at the Security Council. Fifteen countries voted sanctions for the second time. Mandatory Chapter 7 sanctions."
"Chapter 7" of the United Nations charter applies when the Security Council determines a threat exists to international security - it requires all members to enforce the measures, which in this case includes an embargo of all Iranian arms exports plus financial sanctions against individuals and entities involved in Iran's nuclear activities.
Burns says Iran can also expect more penalties from other places if it does not agree to negotiate an end to its nuclear program.
"We've seen three major European banks shut down all lending to Iran and with this second Security Council resolution passed on Saturday in New York its going to allow countries to take greater measures to stop business as usual," he said. "So I'm afraid the Iranians are in for a rough ride."
And while the tighter sanctions have not put the Iranian president in a conciliatory mood - at least so far - Burns says the measures may yet have the desired effect on others who could influence the direction Tehran is taking.
"We're hoping there's going to be reconsideration by the rational, middle of the road people in Iran that they ought to negotiate - I don't think President Ahmadinejad given his politics and given his negative mentality is going to be one of those people - but there surely are other people in Iran who would like to see a negotiation," he said.
The man the U.N. has tasked with reaching out to Iran is European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana. On Monday, Solana had an hour-long phone call with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani to explain the new sanctions but also to convey the international community's strong desire to settle the stand-off with dialogue. Solana's office says the two agreed to continue their conversation in another call within the next few days.