The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution condemning Iran over its nuclear program, and calling for international sanctions to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The resolution condemns Iran for violating obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and other commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
By a vote of 404-1, it commends the decision to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council, and urges permanent council members Russia and China to help bring about quick consideration of the matter.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen pointed to a succession of actions by Iran's government designed to deceive the international community, and provocative statements by Iranian leaders:
"It [Iran] announced that it would provide nuclear technology to other Islamic states. Iran's Defense Minister said it is Iran's absolute right to have access to nuclear arms. And Iran's leader publicly stated his willingness to share nuclear expertise with other Islamic nations," she said.
House lawmakers say Iran has forfeited the right to develop any aspect of a nuclear fuel cycle, in particular uranium conversion and enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technology, equipment or facilities.
Democrat Tom Lantos warns of a nuclear-armed Iran working in support of terrorism. "I ask my colleagues to imagine this terrorist state, armed with nuclear weapons, and in possession of large amounts of nuclear weapons material. Even if it did not put these destructive materials up for sale, a nuclear-armed Iran would terrorize and destabilize the entire Middle East," he said.
Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer spotlighted anti-Israel and anti-American statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Our concerns are only heightened by the inflammatory, irresponsible statements of the Iranian president, who has stated his hope for, and I quote, 'a world without America.' That is the nation that stands on the doorstep of becoming a nuclear power. He has further stated his desire to, quote, wipe Israel off the map," he said.
One Republican and two Democrats expressed concern the language was heavy on harsh rhetoric, and lacking in encouragement of diplomatic solutions.
Democrat Ike Skelton says diplomacy must be given a chance to work. "We must sufficiently consider all tools at our disposal. And we must take care not to inadvertently make matters worse by our rhetoric or by our actions. For example, we should consider smart sanctions that would target Iran's leadership, avoid harming the Iranian population and have strong international support," he said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the House International Relations Committee Thursday sanctions must be crafted in a way that would not hurt the Iranian people:
"I think we should not jump to the conclusion as to what kinds of sanctions might be appropriate. I think we ought to look at the effect on the international community, but also what would be most effective on the Iranian regime, hopefully not hurting the Iranian people, with whom we have no quarrel," she said.
At yet another hearing Thursday, one lawmaker asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top military leaders if the U.S. military would be prepared to deal with any potential decision to use a military option with Iran.
Without responding directly on Iran, military Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace, said longer-term military planning takes into account a range of potential future challenges.