U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton says the Iranian nuclear issue is a test-case for the U.N.'s effectiveness. He said, if the U.N. Security Council cannot get Iran to roll back its nuclear activities, the United States will pursue other options. 

Ambassador Bolton says, while he and other Bush administration officials have been accused of being what he termed "unilateralist cowboys," they have invested three years of diplomatic effort within the international system, trying to get Iran to comply with its nuclear obligations.

In a talk with State Department correspondents in Washington, Bolton framed the current debate over Iran within the U.N. Security Council as a test of the world body's effectiveness, and its usefulness in the eyes of the American people.

He said that, should the Security Council fail to get Iran to end uranium enrichment and related activity, the United States would have to seek alternatives:

"I think that an inability on the part of the Security Council to deal effectively  with the Iranian nuclear weapons program would be a signal that, if we are, as we are, committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, then we have to look at other alternatives," Bolton said. "And I say that not with any theological backing for that, but simply, as a very practical matter of looking for the best tool to effect American foreign policy goals."

Ambassador Bolton said, if Iran fails to heed the Security Council's recent president's statement, giving it until the end of the month to come into compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency demands, the United States would pursue Security Council resolutions.

He said the first would be a binding resolution requiring Iranian compliance, and if that were not heeded after a period of time, there would likely be a follow-on resolution imposing sanctions of some kind.

"This is a calibrated gradual and reversible approach, which underlines what we've been saying for the past several years: namely that the key to this question lies in the hands of the Iranians, the Iranian government," Bolton said. "They can get out of the trap that they have put themselves in by reversing their strategic decision to seek nuclear weapons.  And the example that is out there of what lies in store for them if they do that is the case of Libya."

Bolton said the once-isolated Libyan government's hard-headed decision to scrap its nuclear program at the end of 2003 opened the way to a substantially-different relationship with the United States and the rest of the world community.

The American U.N. envoy said, if the Security Council is hamstrung by discord among its permanent members, and unable to act on Iran, the United States and like-minded countries could pursue punitive measures of their own against Tehran.

He said this could include cutting remaining U.S. business links with Iran, among them imports of Iranian goods like rugs and pistachio nuts.

Bolton also mentioned a more vigorous application of the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, which aims to prevent trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and related technology.

He said U.S. allies might impose travel and financial sanctions on Iranian leaders.  He made no mention of any military option with Iran.

Permanent Security Council member countries Russia and China have resisted the idea of U.N. sanctions against Iran, though in an unusual admission, Bolton said China has been considerably more flexible and helpful in U.N. deliberations thus far than has Russia.

The ambassador suggested that Moscow was protective of its economic stakes in Iran, including the Bushehr nuclear reactor project.

He said Iran had been able to perfect techniques, such as uranium conversion as it stalled nuclear talks with European Union countries.

He also said Tehran has been seeking oil and gas deals with energy-hungry nations, such as India, China and Japan in part to be able to exert political leverage on the nuclear issue, and thus said delay in the U.N. process is not cost-free.