U.S. Threatens Iran With New Sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) -

The Obama administration said Thursday it would support tougher economic pressure on Iran if the Islamic republic doesn’t begin slowing the pace of its uranium enrichment activity and opening its stockpiles of nuclear material to greater inspection, and reassured its critics that the U.S. would not fall for it by the moderate tone of Iran’s new leader.

The chief U.S. nuclear negotiator told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration could offer the Iranians some sanctions relief as “confidence-building” measures but that it would support new and tougher trade restrictions from Congress if diplomacy ultimately fails to ease concerns that Iran might be trying to develop nuclear weapons.

“I’m saying this” to Iran, said negotiator Wendy Sherman, who will meet with other world powers and Iran in Geneva in two weeks. “Come on the 15th of October with concrete, substantive actions that you will take, commitments you will make in a verifiable way, monitoring and verification that you will sign up to, to create some faith that there is reality to this, and our Congress will listen. But I can assure you, if you do not come on the 15th and 16th with that substantive plan that is real and verifiable, our Congress will take action, and we will support them to do so.”

The Senate Banking Committee is expected to draft a new sanctions package later this month, mirroring legislation passed by the House in July that blacklists Iran’s mining and construction sectors and commits the United States to the goal of eliminating all Iranian petroleum sales worldwide by 2015.