Iran leaves world ‘little choice,’ Clinton says

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The world has "little choice" but to impose "greater costs" on Iran for its refusal to cooperate on the nuclear issue, Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

The rebuff of a U.S.-led offer to enrich uranium for medical research in exchange for greater transparency and a refusal to deal with United Nations nuclear inspectors "have caused us to wonder: What does Iran have to hide?" the U.S. secretary of state said Sunday, addressing the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar, an event organized by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank with close ties to the Obama administration.

"Why is Iran refusing to live up to its international obligations, which would lead to political and economic integration with the international community that would actually benefit the Iranian people?" she said. "Iran leaves the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps."

The Obama administration wants the U.N. Security Council to pass another set of sanctions targeting the regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, its theocratic militia. Separately, Congress is set to pass broad unilateral sanctions that would target Iran’s energy sector.

A major obstacle to multilateral sanctions has been the hesitancy of Russia and China, major powers that trade with Iran and have veto power on the Security Council. In a question-and-answer session after her speech, Clinton said Russia was on board.

"Russia, both publicly and privately, has said that it can and will support sanctions," she said. "We are working on the language and trying to make sure that they are as effective and targeted as we can make them."

About China, Clinton said she appreciated its caution, but warned that Beijing would have to make a choice soon.

"China has a lot of investment in this region, in Iran and other countries," she said. "China gets a healthy percentage of its oil from Iran. And it has to ask itself if there is a trade-off between going along with the status quo, which could lead to greater instability, which could actually end up interfering with their oil supply, or standing with the international community to try to change Iran’s strategic calculus."

Top Obama administration officials have intensified Iran-related diplomacy in recent days. Iran is believed to be the top item on Clinton’s tour this week of Arab nations, including a stop in Saudi Arabia.

William Burns, an undersecretary of state, is leaving for the region this week and will raise the Iran issue in talks with leaders in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Syria. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Israel this week meeting with his counterparts to discuss Iran.

Clinton also said at the Qatar event that "aspirations of all parties for Jerusalem" are achievable.

"We recognize that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue to Israelis and Palestinians, to Jews, Muslims and Christians everywhere," she said. "We believe it is possible to reach an outcome that both realizes the aspirations of all parties for Jerusalem, and safeguard its status for the future."

The statement lacked an explicit reference to Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city as a capital, or to the question of whether it would be undivided in a permanent status agreement.

Clinton’s speech otherwise recommitted the Obama administration to working for Palestinian statehood and to safeguarding Israel as a Jewish state.

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