Clinton: Iran needs to prove it isn't pursuing nuclear weapons

Iran said it test-fired short-range missiles in a show of force Sunday as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the country would have to prove it is not developing nuclear weapons or face more sanctions.

Clinton, in an appearance taped Friday for CBS' "Face the Nation," said that the revelation of a nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom just raised additional suspicions about the intent of the Iranians' nuclear program. "We believe that it is a covert facility designed for uranium enrichment," she said.

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Clinton stressed that answers were needed by Iran in time for the Oct. 1 meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. "We don't belive they can present convincing evidence that it's only for peaceful purposes," she said of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, adding that they would still be given the chance to present evidence before international agreements on further action would be decided. If the U.S. doesn't get the answers it wants, "we will work with our partners to work toward sanctions," Clinton said.

"Prove it, don't assert it," Clinton said.

The secretary added that if the Qom facility was being used for peaceful energy purposes -- which she said the country would have the right to under close observation -- it most likely would have been exposed to the public by now.

Even while asserting its nuclear program is simply for energy, Iran has remained defiant in the face of international skepticism and scrutiny over its capabilities. "We are going to respond to any military action in a crushing manner and it doesn't make any difference which country or regime has launched the aggression," Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, told state-run media in conjunction with Sunday's missile tests, which included Iran's first test of a multiple-missile launcher.

More tests of medium- and longer-range missiles were expected through at least Monday.

The administration has learned how to "broaden and deepen" sanctions from dealing with North Korea, Clinton said, and would get extra weight from Russia being on board. "Russia has begun to see many more indications that Iran is engaging in threatening behavior," Clinton said.

Still, Clinton said the administation was "very urgently" pursuing the diplomatic engagement strategy advanced by President Barack Obama. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, echoed that "while you don't take options off the table, I think there is still room left for diplomacy."

Gates said economic sanctions could have a sharp impact in the face of "some divisions in the Iranian leadership and in society that we really haven't seen in the 30 years since the revolution." He urged Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy a chance to work out.

"The reality is, there is no military option that does anything more than buy time," Gates said. "The estimates [of operational nuclear weapons capability] are one to three years or so."

"The only way you end up not having a nuclear capable Iran is for the Iranian government to decide they that their security is diminished by having those weapons as opposed to strengthened."

On "Meet the Press," Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee member Jim Webb (D-Va.) agreed that Russia's lack of opposition to sanctions was a broader indication of global consensus against Tehran's actions.

“You don’t take any options off the table," Webb said when asked whether sanctions or military force would be the best route. "But we also shouldn’t be playing what-if here, sitting on the outside, as Ronald Reagan always famously said.”

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), appearing on CNN, said there are "more sticks at this point than carrots," but stressed both are still needed.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), also appearing on "Meet the Press," said that the Sunday missile drill, which was broadcast on Iranian TV, didn't necessarily up the ante but illustrated the urgency of tackling the Iranian problem.

"It almost seems that they can’t wait to show us that they have the capability of moving forward with their missile program or their nuclear program at the very time that we’re trying to get them to talk," Kyl said. "It illustrates the fact that, at a certain point, talking is counterproductive, rather than productive. Because time is not on our side"

"The fact is we know they're probably today there clearing out evidence of what they're doing there" at the Qom site, said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on "State of the Union."

Aaron Blake contributed to this report