By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today called for tougher economic and diplomatic pressures on Iran in light of a new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s continued nuclear activities.
The United States is in discussions with its allies about what additional sanctions to impose on Iran following the report released Nov. 8 that indicates a continued nuclear weapons program, Panetta said at a Pentagon news conference.
However, referring to remarks he said Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu made today, Panetta said military action against Iran “ought to be a last resort.”
The United States has made clear that it’s “unacceptable” for Iran to develop a nuclear capability, Panetta said. “We have made that point time and time again, and we have taken steps and implemented sanctions to make that clear to Iran,” he said.
However, the IAEA report reflects what intelligence assessments already have revealed about Iran’s continued activities, he said.
“We have always made the point that they continue to try to develop a threshold capability with regard to their nuclear capacity,” he said. “But at the same time, there continue to be divisions within Iran as to whether or not to build a bomb itself.”
“So, in many ways, the IAEA report pretty much indicates that they continue to work on that capability,” he said.
The fact that this respected international organization has come to this determination “raises serious concerns that Iran continues to flaunt international rules and standards,” Panetta said.
The secretary emphasized Iran’s responsibilities as a signatory to the nonproliferation treaty. “They have to abide by international standards … and international rules,” he said.“And obviously, the report from the IAEA just indicates that that is just not the case.”
The findings make it “very clear that additional sanctions need to be applied,” he said. “It is important that the world come together to apply sanctions against Iran and make very clear to them that they are going to pay a heavy price if they continue along this track.”
Panetta expressed hope that Iran will abandon its efforts. “As to what happens down the road, I think our hope is that we don’t reach that point, and that Iran decides that it should join the international family,” he said.