U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he is optimistic the United Nations Security Council will approve new sanctions against Iran. Gates made the comments after talks in London and as the Security Council prepared to take up the sanctions issue in New York.
Speaking at a news conference in the British capital, Defense Secretary Gates said the international community can still stop Iran from developing an atomic arsenal.
"I do not think we have lost the opportunity to stop the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon, developing nuclear weapons," Gates said. "I think that the clock is ticking."
Gates said he was optimistic that the U.N. Security Council would act soon.
"I am hopeful a resolution will be passed very soon," Gates said.
New sanctions, he said, are crucial.
"One of the many benefits of a resolution is that it will provide a legal platform for individual nations to then take additional actions that go well beyond the resolution itself," Gates said. "And I believe a number of nations are prepared to act pretty promptly."
Also speaking to reporters, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it could set off a nuclear arms race in the Mideast.
"After all the sacrifices that both our countries [Britain and the United States] made getting us to the end of the Cold War, limiting nuclear proliferation and having just celebrated last year 20 year since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we surely want to do more than leave the next generation a legacy of a new nuclear arms race in the world's most unstable region," Fox said.
Iran has repeatedly said it wants to develop its nuclear program for peaceful purposes only. But many leaders in the international community are not convinced.
Gates expressed hope that diplomacy and pressure will persuade Iran that nuclear weapons will not enhance, but undermine its security.
The situation in Afghanistan was another issue discussed during talks here in London. The U.S. defense secretary travels on to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers. Again, Iran and Afghanistan are expected to figure prominently.