A senior U.S. official says Iran's announcement it intends to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants in defiance of the international community's demands it halt such activities will further isolate that country and could put it on the path to more U.N. sanctions.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice says the Obama administration views the Iranian announcement as "unacceptable."
"Let me underscore that the board of governors of the IAEA demonstrated a great deal of unity as well as a great deal of resolve in passing the resolution that they did last week," said Rice. "We view the Iranian announcement, if it is in fact accurate and implemented, that they intend to build 10 additional facilities, as completely inappropriate and further isolating Iran from the international community. We view that, frankly, as unacceptable."
The IAEA is the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. Last week its board of governors met in Vienna and passed a resolution demanding Iran stop work on a formerly secret enrichment plant in the city of Qom.
In response, Iran announced plans to build 10 new enrichment facilities, saying locations for five of the plants have already been approved.
Ambassador Rice, who also holds the rank of Cabinet member, told reporters the United States and its partners, which include the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, known as the P5, as well as Germany, have been pursuing a two-track approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue.
"While we have been and will remain in close consultation with our P5+1 partners on the way forward, we have said that this is a dual track effort - there has been an engagement track which we have been very actively engaged in, but there is also a pressure track," said Rice. "And as Iran makes choices that seem to indicate that it is not at this stage ready and willing to take up the offers on the engagement track, then we will put greater emphasis on the pressure track. Time is short. And we are serious about implementing to the fullest extent that dual track policy."
President Barack Obama has said he would review diplomatic efforts with Iran at the end of this year, before pursuing possible new sanctions through the Security Council. Iran is already in defiance of repeated Security Council demands that it stop enriching uranium.
Iran says its nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful and intended to produce energy for civilian uses, but several Western nations believe Iran is trying to secretly develop nuclear weapons.