Reuters: The United States will be ready to respond if Iran fails to take tangible steps soon to meet its commitments over its nuclear program, President Barack Obama's national security adviser warned on Tuesday. By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will be ready to respond if Iran fails to take tangible steps soon to meet its commitments over its nuclear program, President Barack Obama's national security adviser warned on Tuesday.
"Nothing is off the table," General James Jones said, referring to Washington's options in dealing with Iran if it continues defying international demands.
He spoke after Iran's state media said Tehran wanted major amendments in the framework of a U.N. nuclear fuel deal that it broadly accepts.
The diplomatic snag threatened to unravel the plan and expose Tehran to the threat of harsher sanctions.
"Iran now needs to follow through on its commitments," Jones said in a speech in Washington to J Street, a liberal pro-Israel lobbying group.
The European Union's foreign policy chief said earlier on Tuesday there was no need to rework the U.N. draft, and he and France's foreign minister suggested Tehran would rekindle demands for tougher sanctions if it tried to undo the plan.
Among the central planks of the plan opposed by Iran — but requested by the West to cut the risk of an Iranian atom bomb — was for it to send most of its low-enriched uranium reserve abroad for processing all in one go, state television said.
The draft deal emerged from Iran's recent talks in Vienna with the United States and other world powers.
Iran's pledges have won a reprieve from sanctions targeting its oil sector but Obama and other leaders have stressed they will not wait indefinitely for Tehran to follow through.
"We will see in a short amount of time if engagement is able to produce the concrete results that we need and will be prepared if it does not," Jones said.
Since taking office in January, Obama has sought to engage Iran diplomatically, taking a less-confrontational approach than his predecessor George W. Bush.
Iran says it is enriching uranium only for power plant fuel. But its history of nuclear secrecy has raised Western suspicions Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capability.
Jones said Iran's agreement to export low-enriched uranium to other countries would be a good first step toward reducing Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon in the short term.
"If implemented, this arrangement would set back the clock on Iran's breakout capability as it would reduce Iran's stockpile far below the amount needed in order to produce a weapon, and it would take time to reconstitute the amount needed for a breakout," he said.
Jones said the administration had consulted Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe plus Russia and China and the consensus was "moving toward our direction" over Iran.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)