President Barack Obama says China, Russia, and the United States are united in the goal of ensuring that Iran does not use its nuclear program to make atomic weapons.
Obama, speaking at the close of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, said on November 13 that officials of his administration will consult with China and Russia on ways that the three powers can cooperate to ensure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power.
His warning was underscored by subsequent statements from EU foreign ministers gathering for talks in Brussels, although major European powers appeared divided over the extent of measures they would be willing to use against Iran if it continued on its current nuclear path.
Obama, who had talks at the summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao, said his preference was to resolve the Iranian issue diplomatically, but that he would not take "any options off the table."
"What I did was to speak with President Medvedev as well as President Hu, and all three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is: making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power, and that we don't trigger a nuclear arms race in the region," Obama said.
"That's in the interests of all of us. In terms of how we move forward, we will be consulting with [Russia and China] carefully over the next several weeks."
Obama also said that Iran was "isolated" in the world community, and there were indications that international sanctions have begun to weaken Iran economically.
"The sanctions have enormous bite and enormous scope," Obama said. "And we're building off the platform that has already been established. The question is: Are there additional measures that we can take? We're going to explore every avenue to see if we can solve this issue diplomatically."
Obama added: "I have said repeatedly and I will say it today: We are not taking any options off the table, because it's my firm belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would pose a security threat not only to the region, but also to the United States."
Russia and China have previously joined the United States in supporting four rounds of United Nations sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment work.
However, reports say Russia and China, which each hold a veto on the UN Security Council, appear reluctant at the current time to impose further sanctions against Iran.
Less than a day after Obama's warning, European Union foreign ministers went into talks in Brussels calling for increased pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle ruled out any idea of military action, saying on arrival, "We are not taking part in the discussion on military intervention."
But British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said military action should not be rule out.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the international community needed to take "a very firm" stand by toughening sanctions against Iran "to avoid an irreparable intervention."
Last week the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), released a report saying that Iran had worked on developing an atomic bomb design, and may still be conducting such research.
Iran, which denies it seeks to develop nuclear weapons, has condemned and rejected the IAEA findings. Tehran says its nuclear program is to for peaceful energy production and research only.
compiled from agency reports
Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
The Development and Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Today eight countries
are possessing nuclear weapons. The five nuclear weapons states
United States, Russia (former Soviet Union), United Kingdom, France
and China, are the only countries allowed to have nuclear weapons
according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) from 1970. All
members of the United Nations except Israel, India and Pakistan have
signed the NPT.
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