'Not too late for Iran sanctions'

Robert Gates: Teheran can be pressured into abandoning nuclear program.

robert gates 311 (photo credit: AP)
robert gates 311
(photo credit: AP)
Several hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced his country's atomic agency would begin producing higher enriched uranium, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday it was time for the international community to rally together to put significant pressure on the Islamic republic to abandon its nuclear program.
"If the international community will stand together and bring pressure to bear on the Iranian government, I believe there is still time for sanctions and (diplomatic) pressure to work," he told the Italian and US press following his meeting with Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa.
"But we must all work together," he said.
Gates made his second public rebuff in as many days to the Teheran government's assertion that its nuclear program was intended for peaceful purposes. A day earlier, Gates had told reporters in Turkey that Iran's nuclear ambitions were extremely dangerous and threaten all of Europe.
Gates said that "no one has tried more sincerely" to reach out to the Iranian government than US President Barack Obama and that the international community has given the Islamic republic "multiple opportunities" to assure the West that its intentions were peaceful.
The US defense minister was reluctant to discuss what specific sanctions he thinks might be most effective, other than to say they should be focused on the regime in Teheran and not target the local population.
He also declined to criticize Russia and China for their reluctance on sanctions.
"Rather than single any country out, I'll just say that I think all of us could do more" to pressure Iran, Gates said.
Speaking to a reporter on the sidelines of a conference of the world's top defense officials in Munich, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg also expressed the frustration of dealing with Ahmadinejad and the government of Iran.
"Today's statement shows that farce is being played out just like wehave seen in the past, that the outstretched hand of the internationalcommunity has not only not been taken but pushed back," Guttenberg said.
The United States and its Western allies have been pushing for a fourthround of UN sanctions to be slapped on Iran over its disputed nuclearprogram. But with Russia, and especially China, skeptical of any new UNpenalties, they have to tread carefully to maintain unity on how todeal with Teheran.
The production of enriched uranium is the international community'smain concern over Iran's disputed nuclear program since it can be usedto make nuclear weapons.