- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2010

DOHA, Qatar | U.S. officials sought to shore up support Sunday for a tougher stand against Iran’s nuclear program by saying Tehran had left the world little choice and expressing renewed confidence that holdout China would come around to harsher U.N. penalties.

Even as the Obama administration intensifies its diplomacy, Iran is showing little sign of bending to the will of its critics. Past U.N. sanctions have had little effect.

President Obama’s senior military adviser called for more time for diplomatic pressure to work and said in Israel, which has hinted that it might attack if negotiations to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions failed, that such action could have “unintended consequences” throughout the Middle East. Israel views Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its very existence.

While diplomatic patience has its limits, “we’re not there yet,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Tel Aviv.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a quick visit to Persian Gulf allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia, told a forum on U.S.-Muslim relations that Iran has not lived up to its nuclear obligations and has rebuffed U.S. and international efforts to engage in serious talks. She said Iran has a right to nuclear power, but only if shown unequivocally it is to be used just for peaceful purposes.

While Iran insists it has no desire to get the bomb, Mrs. Clinton said it appears otherwise.

“The evidence is accumulating that that is exactly what they are trying to do,” she said during a question-and-answer session with her audience at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, attended by officials and scholars from around the world. She also used pointed language in stressing that after months of failed efforts aimed at direct talks with Iran, tougher action is now required.

“It’s time for Iran to be held to account for its activities,” she said, alluding to penalties designed to squeeze Iran’s economy.

In her speech, Mrs. Clinton said the U.S. and others were working on “new measures” to try to persuade Iran to change its course.

Mr. Obama has said that work to broaden economic sanctions in the U.N. Security Council is moving along quickly, but he hasn’t given a specific timeline. China, one of five permanent members of the Security Council, has close economic ties to Iran and can block a resolution by itself.

“We have the support of everyone from Russia to Europe. And I believe we’ll get the support of China to continue to impose sanctions on Iran to isolate them, to make it clear that in fact they cannot move forward,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told NBC’s “Meet the Press” from Canada, where he was attending the Olympics.

“We need to work on China a little bit more,” Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones told “Fox News Sunday.”

Mrs. Clinton struck a similar tone, saying in Doha that “the weight is maybe beginning to move” toward China supporting sanctions.

Mrs. Clinton’s trip follows closely on the Iranian president’s claim that his country had produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also insisted Thursday that Iran had no intention of building nuclear weapons, yet would not be bullied by the West into curtailing its nuclear program — a reference to new U.S. financial penalties imposed a day earlier.

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