Obama wants curbs on Iran in 'weeks'

Obama wants curbs on Iran in 'weeks'

Obama wants curbs on Iran in 'weeks'

French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks alongside US President Barack Obama during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. AFP

"My hope is that we are going to get this (sanctions against Iran) done this spring. So I am not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place. I'm interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks," Obama said in response to a question at a joint White House press conference with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"We think that we can get sanctions within weeks," Obama said, adding his administration is working to emphasise its international partners that this is not simply an issue of trying to isolate Iran. The issue has enormous implications for the safety and the security of the entire region, according to him.

"We don't want to see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. A conflict in the Middle East as a consequence of Iran's actions could have a huge destabilising effect in terms of the world economy at a time when it's just coming out of a very deep recession," the US President said. Referring to the initial policies of his administration, Obama said the approach to Tehran was to engage it and provide the opportunity to take the right path to prosperity.

The alternative path was further isolation and further consequences, he added. "We mobilised the international community around this approach, including partners like Russia that in the past might have been more hesitant to take a firmer stance on Iran's nuclear program. What we said, though, was that there was going to be a time limit to it and that if we had not seen progress by the end of the year, it was time for us to move forward on that sanctions track," he noted.

The US President said the long-term consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran were unacceptable.  "And so Nicolas (Sarkozy), myself and others agree that we have engaged; the door remains open if the Iranians choose to walk through it. But they understand very clearly what the terms of a diplomatic solution would be. And in the interim we are going to move forcefully on a UN sanctions regime," Obama said.

Acknowledging that there is no unanimity in the global community on this issue, he said more work has to be done despite the US' stronger position to impose sanctions against Tehran.

"Partly (this was) because, Iran is a oil producer and there are a lot of countries around the world that, regardless of Iran's offences, are thinking that their commercial interests are more important to them than these long-term geopolitical interests," he said, adding the US was "very clearly" communicating the importance of its stand. Obama said he and the French President discussed their shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

"On this the US and France are united, are inseparable. With our P5-plus-1 partners, we offer Iran good faith proposals to resolve this matter through diplomacy. But Iran thus far has rejected those offers. Today, the international community is more united than ever on the need for Iran to uphold its obligations. And that's why we're pursuing strong sanctions through the UN Security Council," he said.

Agreeing with his American counterpart, France president Sarkozy said the time has come to take decisions. "Iran cannot continue its mad race. Now, we don't want to punish Iran, which deserves better than what it has by way of leadership today, and therefore fully support in order to get stronger, tougher sanctions at the Security Council and take the necessary decisions is what you have," Sarkozy said.

The French president also informed Obama that he, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Premier Gordon Brown would make all necessary efforts to ensure Europe's engagement in the sanction regime.

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