WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said that within the next few weeks, the United States and other world powers would be formulating new sanctions on Iran.
"They have been unable to get to ‘yes,’ and so as a consequence, we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences," Obama said Thursday at a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak Thursday, according to media reports.
"Our expectation is, is that over the next several weeks we will be developing a package of potential steps that we could take that will indicate our seriousness to Iran," Obama said.
Obama’s statement comes after Iran rejected a proposal to ship its low-enriched uranium abroad so it could be made into fuel for medical purposes — which would have delayed Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon.
On Friday, representatives of the United States met with Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany in Brussels and afterwards urged Iran to reconsider the enriched uranium proposal.
"We are disappointed by the lack of follow-up on the three understandings" in the proposed deal, said senior European official Robert Cooper.
"We urge Iran to reconsider the opportunity offered by this agreement," said a statement released after the meeting, "and to engage seriously with us in dialogue and negotiations."
The countries said they would hold their next meeting before the end of the year.
The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, encouraged Iran to accept an offer to process its enriched uranium abroad, but also said he opposed additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic if it did not reciprocate.
"I would hope definitely that we’ll get an agreement before the end of the year," said Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at a news conference in Berlin, Reuters reported. "I believe frankly the ball is very much in the Iranian court. I hope they will not miss this unique but fleeting opportunity."
ElBaradei said in the news conference that "you need to understand that this is the first time that you will have a genunine commitment from an American president to engage you fully, on the basis of respect, with no conditions."
Further sanctions on Tehran, he added, would not help.
"Are sanctions going to resolve the issue? I don’t think so," he said. "In my view sanctions are going to make things much worse" and make Iran "more hawkish."