U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday it is time to move toward new sanctions against Iran, given the lack of a clear response from Tehran to a proposal to ease concern about its nuclear intentions. Senior officials of the six major powers conducting nuclear diplomacy with Tehran held a telephone conference call Friday.
Despite seemingly-conciliatory comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week, Clinton says there has still been no definitive Iranian reply to a compromise nuclear proposal offered last October.
She says it is important now to consider additional sanctions against Iran, and that the United States is reaching out to other major powers on the issue, including China which says it opposes early punitive action.
Earlier this week, the Iranian President said his government would have "no problem" sending low-enriched uranium abroad if it later received, in exchange, higher-enriched reactor fuel.
But U.S. officials say Iran has not followed up with a formal acceptance of a swap arrangement proposed last October by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under it, Iran would give up most of its uranium stockpile in return for enriched fuel for a medical reactor.
In a talk with reporters, Clinton said the world community is only getting mixed signals from Tehran and that it is time to pursue additional pressure.
"Sometimes, we see response from a part of the government that is then retracted from another part of the government. So I think our position is that we have, in good faith, engaged in diplomacy with the Iranians," Clinton said. "We've always had a two-track process, and we think it is important that we move now toward looking at what pressure, what sanctions can be brought to bear on the Iranians. We're going to continue to reach out to all of our colleagues in this effort, including, of course, China." she added.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said this week that talk about sanctions might complicate diplomatic efforts on the nuclear issue, which he suggested still hold some promise.
A State Department spokesman said China took part in a telephone conference call on Iran Friday of senior diplomats the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the P5+1.
The six-power grouping has led international diplomacy with Iran, aimed at easing widespread concerns that Iran's uranium enrichment drive is weapons related, despite Iranian assertions of peaceful intent.
Spokesman P.J. Crowley said China was a "vigorous participant" in the 90-minute call, which he said covered both diplomacy with Iran, and what he termed "potential actions on the pressure track."