A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor 311 R.
(photo credit: Reuters/ Raheb Homavandi)
WASHINGTON -- A senior US administration official on Wednesday denied Iranian assertions
that negotiations for arranging a meeting to discuss its nuclear
program were underway, and said that any future meeting would not affect
fresh sanctions on Tehran.
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"We are going to move forward
aggressively to implement and execute these sanctions. There is nothing
that would change what we do until Iran takes steps to address the
international community's concerns," the official said in response to a
question from The Jerusalem Post at a briefing with the Israeli media. "There will be no pulling back from what we are doing here."
official interpreted the recent Iranian statements that plans for a
meeting were underway between Tehran and the six world powers handling
talks as a sign that Iran felt the sanctions were having "bite."
official added that the US remained open to talking to Iran about its
nuclear program so long as negotiations were "serious" and "without
The US imposed a new round of sanctions targeting
foreign companies doing business with Iran this winter with the aim of
decreasing Iran's oil revenue.
As the sanctions were signed into law, Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, which observers also interpreted as a sign the sanctions were seen as a serious threat by the Iranians.
But the US said it would not allow the Strait to be closed, and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated that point Wednesday, saying, "We have continually maintained a strong presence in the region to make very clear that we are going to do everything possible to secure the peace in that part of the world.”
He also said that the US didn’t need to bolster its troop presence there.
“We are not [taking] any special steps at this point in order to deal with the situation,” he said at a press briefing. "Why? Because frankly we are fully prepared to deal with that situation now."
Some critics, including in Israel,
have questioned whether the US has been doing enough and whether the
added measure will have an impact.
the United States, the Senate passed a resolution, by a majority of
100-to-one, to impose these sanctions, and in the US administration
there is hesitation for fear of oil prices rising this year, out of
election-year considerations," Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon was quoted as telling
Israel Radio earlier this week. "In that regard, this is certainly a disappointment, for now."
the senior official defended the Obama administration's implementation
of the legislation, saying that many companies and countries are already
cutting down their intake of Iranian oil to comply with the sanctions
law, which provides a few months of lead-time for compliance before
taking affect this spring.
The official predicted "significant action" from foreign entities in the
near term, and pointed to recent reports that China was going to be
purchasing less petroleum from Tehran.
The official also pushed back against the charge that the Obama
administration had opposed the sanctions and now wasn't acting fast
enough to implement them.
The administration had some differences over "tactics" but not the goal
of the legislation, according to the official, and had acted as soon as
it was passed, dispatching American diplomats around the world to inform
foreign countries of the law and its consequences.
At the same time, the official stressed that the US is taking a measured
approach in order to prevent a spike in oil prices, which would not
only hurt the US economy but potentially neutralize the benefit of
cutting Iran's oil sales.
"Our greatest concern is reducing the oil revenues to Iran," the
official emphasized. "What we don't want to do, and why we're doing this
in a phased but aggressive manner, is that if oil price goes up, we
don't want Iran to benefit from the increase in oil prices."Reuters contributed to this report.