US stepping up pressure on Iran outside of UN

Date: 09-19-06

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Washington is working to ratchet up international pressure against Iran, as it presses for formal UN sanctions if Tehran fails to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, a top State Department official said.

"We are working with the financial community world wide to impress on them the cost of doing business with Iran, and we're making the case that Iran is not a good risk for further investment in any field," Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"We're beginning to see banks decide that they will not continue with new lending to Iran and some European and Asian banks actually curtailing their operations quite significantly," he said.

Washington also is "taking steps to expand the information flow into Iran, support democratic activists and boost people to people contacts," he said, adding "our strategy toward Iran does not begin or end with the Security Council."

Burns said that Washington remains open to a diplomatic resolution with Iran, "but should that not be the case, then ... we will seek to impose a sanctions regime on the Iranian government."

He also said, when asked about whether Washington had ruled out a military intervention of Iran, that "no option is off the table."

He made his remarks shortly before President George W. Bush and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were to give much-awaited speeches at the United Nations, and said that Iran's alleged nuclear efforts seemed to be part of broader, more aggressive regional policy

"It is different from what we have seen in recent years," Burns told the panel.

"We believe that Iran's leadership aspires to preserve their place in power and to extend and entrench their influence over their neighbors in the Middle East," he said.

"They view the presence in the region of the United States, and of our allies, as the paramount obstacle to their regional ambitions. They're seeking change inside Iran by returning to the zeal and purity as they see it the early years of the revolution," said Burns.

He echoed remarks by his boss, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that world powers would be able to unite on a new UN sanctions resolution if Iran persists in its refusal to halt the uranium enrichment, saying that a broadbased "international consensus" exists for such a move.


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