Obama calls on United Nations to impose tough sanctions on Iran

Obama calls on United Nations to impose tough sanctions on Iran

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' Texas warehouse where migrants housed in 'cages' closed for humane renovation North Carolina — still purple but up for grabs MORE on Tuesday called on the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran by this spring.

During a joint press conference at the White House with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama said he wants to see a sanctions regime in place, but conceded that he does not yet have international unanimity. 


At the same time, Obama suggested he was optimistic he could win sanctions at the United Nations, saying he thought “we can get sanctions in weeks.”

“My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring,” said Obama, who has come under intense pressure from Congress to take action on Iran.

“So I'm not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place. I'm interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks," he said.

Obama said his administration was working with international partners such as France to win sanctions. He stressed that the issue has "enormous implications for the safety and the security of the entire region. We don’t want to see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

Sarkozy did not make any direct comments on Iran in response to a question posed at the short press conference, but said he was satisfied with what Obama had said on the issue.

Obama said that on the issue of confronting and preventing a nuclear Iran, “the United States and France are united, are inseparable.”

Obama, Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented a united front last September at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, when the three confronted Iran and gave them until the end of 2009 to halt its nuclear program.

That deadline is now well past, and Obama indicated Tuesday his patience has run out.

The president blamed the lack of unanimous support on other countries that have oil interests in Iran. Russia and China, the other two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have resisted tougher sanctions on Iran.

Obama said he would “continue to apply pressure,” not just to the Iranians but also to other countries on the fence about sanctions.

Brazil and Turkey have also resisted imposing tougher sanctions on Iran. The two countries are temporary members on the Security Council.

Obama's call for action comes as he faces increased pressure from members of Congress to get tough with Iran. Pressure in Congress has percolated since last year's Iranian election, when the ruling regime used force to quell street protests.

Lawmakers frustrated with inaction have intensified their push for action. Unlikely allies Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) have circulated a letter urging the Obama administration to get tough, and it has gained quick support.

"Iran's nuclear weapons program represents a severe threat to American national interests ... It has now stored enough low enriched uranium to serve as the core for two nuclear weapons," the letter states.

Seventy-six Democrats and 138 Republicans have signed on to the letter, which commends Obama for attempting to engage with Iran for over a year. It also reveals growing impatience on Capitol Hill with talks at the United Nations, and states that "time is not on our side."

"We cannot allow those who would oppose or delay sanctions to govern either the timing or content of our efforts," it says, in reference to the lack of support at the Security Council from veto-wielders China and Russia.

The president repeated his pledge Tuesday to keep diplomatic doors open for Iran to walk through, but he said “in the interim we are going to move forcefully toward a U.N. sanctions regime.”

Separately, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she expected the U.S. could rally international consensus for sanctions against Iran. At a meeting of foreign ministers in Canada on Tuesday, Clinton reportedly said that the last 15 months had demonstrated the "unwillingness of Iran to fulfill its international obligations," according to The Associated Press.

Clinton said this unwillingness was the basis for her optimism that "we're going to have a consensus reached at the Security Council."

This story was updated at 8:02 p.m.