As Iran accelerated its nuclear program on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that major new sanctions on the Iranian government are being developed. The president says Tehran is still pursuing a program that would lead to nuclear weapons.
President Obama said the process of developing further sanctions against Iran is moving along quickly.
"What we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole," said President Obama.
The president spoke during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room, only hours after Iran announced that it had begun enriching uranium to a higher level. The Tehran government insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Mr. Obama said Iran appears to have ignored his offer of engagement.
Last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency brokered a deal in which Iran would send its low-enriched uranium abroad to be processed. The uranium would then be returned for use in producing medical isotopes.
Mr. Obama says Tehran is sending out mixed signals, but clearly has not accepted the offer. He says that shows that Iran intends to use the uranium for military purposes.
"That indicates to us that despite their posturing that their nuclear power is only for civilian use, that they, in fact, continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization," said Mr. Obama.
The United States and France have said that Iran's action leaves them no choice but to intensify their efforts for a fourth set of U.N. Security Council sanctions. China has opposed similar sanctions on Iran in the past.
President Obama says there is room for diplomacy.
"We are confident right now that the international community is unified around Iran's misbehavior in this area," said President Obama. "How China operates at the Security Council as we pursue sanctions is something that we are going to have to see."
Russia, which also has opposed sanctions, says the new enrichment plan shows there is reason for suspicion about Iran's intentions.
Mr. Obama says he appreciates the change in Moscow's stance.
"One thing I am pleased about is to see how forward-leaning the Russians have been on this issue," he said. "I think they clearly have seen that Iran has not been serious about solving what is a solvable dispute between Iran and the international community."
The president did not give a specific timetable for implementing new sanctions.