US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday backed a “peaceful” resolution of the nuclear row with Iran as she met Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose nation has threatened pre-emptive military strikes against Tehran.
Standing next to Barak, Clinton told reporters the US was working with its international partners to increase pressure on Iran — a reference to fresh UN sanctions — to “change course” in the dragging showdown.
Barak welcomed efforts by US President Barack Obama and Clinton to seek “effective” sanctions against Iran while promising not to lose sight of the possibility they may fail to work.
“We remain committed to a diplomatic peaceful resolution,” Clinton told reporters before going into private talks with Barak.
But “Iran is not living up to its responsibilities and we are working with partners in the international community to increase pressure on Iran to change course,” the chief US diplomat said.
She was referring to the report last week by Yukiya Amano, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief who expressed concern Iran might be seeking to develop a nuclear warhead.
During a tour of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, just before Amano issued the blunt report to the IAEA board of governors, Clinton warned the evidence increasingly pointed to Iran’s seeking a nuclear bomb.
She also feared Iran was heading toward a “military dictatorship” as she charged that the Republican Guards, which run Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, were supplanting Iran’s clerical and political leadership.
Barak gave qualified support to the US push for sanctions.
“We also highly appreciate the effort made by President Obama and the secretary to make sure that sanctions against Iran will become effective,” Barak said.
But Israel will not lose “eye contact with the possibility that in spite of all effort, it will not lead to Iran accepting the international norms,” the defense minister said.
On Feb. 3, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon raised the possibility of using force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which the West suspects Tehran is seeking under cover of its civilian nuclear energy program. Iran denies the charges.
Yaalon also urged the international community to impose even harsher sanctions on Iran.
Tehran has already faced three successive rounds of UN sanctions for refusing to stop enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors but also fissile material for an atomic bomb.