Mofaz warns sanctions on Iran must bite by year's end

The international community has until the end of the year to make sanctions work against Iran, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz warned during strategic-dialogue consultations here this week. He addressed options for financial pressure on Iran that can be taken - primarily by the Americans and Europeans - independent of the UN Security Council, which has already passed two resolutions applying very limited sanctions on the Islamic Republic for its uranium-enrichment activities. "Sanctions must be strong enough to bring about change in the Iranians by the end of 2007," Mofaz told Israeli reporters, after meeting on Wednesday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. Channel 2 reported on Thursday night that Mofaz had told Rice there were six months left for sanctions to bite, and that all options, including military action, were open after that. There was no independent confirmation of this report. Burns, the the State Department's third-ranking official, is heading the American team for the strategic dialogue, which started Thursday morning and continued through the day. He also oversees efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Ahead of Thursday's session, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he had no knowledge of a deadline being set by the Israelis. "I certainly have not heard the secretary [of state] apply any time line to the diplomatic effort," he said. McCormack said the US was looking for ways to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, both inside and outside of the Security Council. "We're going to be talking about, in the not too distant future, another Security Council resolution," he said, adding that the US was "working bilaterally" to find pressure points on Iran. The talks also looked at Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians. Hizbullah was quickly rearming, including the acquisition of long-range missiles, despite UN Security Council requirements that such activity cease, Mofaz told Rice on Wednesday. "It's arming with rockets that could hit the center of the country and even the South," he said.