Friday, May 25, 2007

Bush urges tougher sanctions on Iran

US President George W. Bush pledged yesterday to work with allies to strengthen sanctions on Iran after a UN watchdog agency reported that Teheran was accelerating its nuclear enrichment program in defiance of international demands.

"The world has spoken and said... no nuclear weapons programs. And yet they're constantly ignoring the demands," Bush said at a White House news conference. The ratcheting up of rhetoric against Iran came just days before US and Iranian diplomats were to meet in Baghdad to discuss ways of stabilizing Iraq.

The president said he had directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to work with European partners to "develop further sanctions." He said he would also soon discuss the matter with Russia and China.

Iran's leaders "continue to be defiant as to the demands of the free world," Bush said. "My view is that we need to strengthen our sanction regime."

The UN's nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Wednesday accused Iran of accelerating its uranium enrichment program despite international demands that it shut it down. The US has moved two aircraft carriers and seven other ships into the Persian Gulf in a show of force.