President Barack Obama says sanctions on Iran are having "enormous bite," but he still wants to work with Russia and China to find more ways of putting pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
"We will be consulting with them carefully over the next several weeks to look at what other options we have available to us," Obama said at a press conference after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit where he met with the leaders of the two nations.
Obama said his strong preference was to resolve the Iran issue diplomatically, but he added: "We are not taking any options off the table. Iran with nuclear weapons would pose a threat not only to the region but also to the United States."
At the summit, Obama met with Russian and Chinese leaders to discuss a new report from the U.N. watchdog agency that included evidence Iran's program is working on research and design efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.
Obama said Russia and China share America's goal of making sure Iran doesn't build the bomb. But both countries have said they oppose new sanctions.
A report Friday from the International Atomic Energy Agency provided new evidence that Iran's nuclear program includes clandestine efforts to build a bomb. The report, circulated among the U.N. watchdog agency's member countries, includes satellite images, letters, diagrams and other documents. It alleges Iran has been working to acquire equipment and weapons design information, testing high explosives and detonators and developing compute models of a warhead's core. Taken together, it's the most unequivocal evidence yet that the Iranian program ranges far beyond enriching uranium for use in energy and medical research, which is what Tehran says it's for.
In meetings Saturday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nor Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama sought to rally support for putting new pressure on Iran's regime. But there was little public sign either country was ready to drop its opposition to additional sanctions. Four rounds of U.N. sanctions have caused economic hardship in Iran, but have yet to force any change in the nuclear program.
"The sanctions have enormous bite and enormous scope," Obama
Obama declined to directly respond to criticism of his Iran policy from Republican presidential candidates Saturday, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's declaration that Obama's re-election would mean a nuclear armed Iran. But he took a swipe at his foes anyway.
"Now is this an easy issue?" he asked. "No, anyone who claims it is, is either politicking or doesn't know what they're talking about."