Image: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Doha
Fadi Al-Assaad  /  Reuters
Before traveling to Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers questions during the program "From Washington," moderated by Al Jazeera's Washington Bureau Chief Abdulrahim Fukara, left, on the Carnegie Mellon campus in Doha on Monday.
updated 2/15/2010 7:11:58 PM ET 2010-02-16T00:11:58

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Monday expressed doubts about the usefulness of more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference in the Saudi capital that the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions demands a more immediate solution than sanctions. He described sanctions as a long-term solution, and he said the threat is more pressing.

The Saudi minister spoke at a joint appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is in the Persian Gulf to shore up support for new sanctions against Iran. The Saudi minister also said efforts supported by the U.S. to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons must apply to Israel.

“Sanctions are a long-term solution,” the Saudi minister said. “But we see the issue in the shorter term because we are closer to the threat,” referring to Iran. “We need immediate resolution rather than gradual resolution.”

He didn’t identify a preferred short-term resolution.

U.S. officials traveling with Clinton said privately they were uncertain what al-Faisal meant, since the Saudi government has been explicit in its support of sanctions against Iran. They said he appeared to be suggesting that sanctions may not be effective and that other action could be required.

Prior to her meeting with al-Faisal, Clinton said Iran is sliding into a military dictatorship, a new assessment suggesting a rockier road ahead for U.S.-led efforts to stop Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

As the first high-level Obama administration official to make such an accusation, Clinton was reflecting an ever-dimming outlook for persuading Iran to negotiate limits on its nuclear program, which it has insisted is intended only for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile, a semi-official news agency quoted the head of Iran's nuclear program as saying the country received a new proposal last week from the United States, Russia and France, three of the countries trying to rein in Tehran's uranium enrichment program.

Iran said that it was studying the joint proposal purportedly made after the country announced last week it had begun enriching uranium to a higher level than previously acknowledged. The ILNA news agency quoted Ali Akbar Salehi as saying various countries have also offered Iran proposals on a nuclear fuel swap, adding that Iran is reviewing all the proposals. He did not provide any more details.

Private U.S. experts on the Iranian regime said they agreed with Clinton's assessment of Iran's drift toward military dominance.

"When you rely on the power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to remain in power it is only a matter of time before the regime becomes a paramilitary dictatorship — and it is about time we realize this," Iranian-born Fariborz Ghadar, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an e-mail to The AP. He said the current regime is "beholden to the Revolutionary Guard for its survival."

Ray Takeyh, a former administration adviser on Iran who now follows Iranian developments from the private Council on Foreign Relations, said by e-mail, "The Revolutionary Guards are increasingly represented in all aspects of governance."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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