President Obama to Push for 'Strong Sanctions' Against Iran

Wrapping up a two-day nuclear security summit, President Obama said this evening that he will push hard for "strong sanctions" against Iran for its continued development of a nuclear program, adding that he wants them finished "on a timely basis."

"Sanctions aren't a magic wand," Obama said at a press conference in Washington. "What sanctions do accomplish is, hopefully, to change the calculus of a country like Iran, so that they see that there are more costs and fewer benefits to pursuing a nuclear-weapons program."

Obama declared the nuclear summit, an unprecedented gathering of world leaders that he called for in a speech in Prague last year, "enormously productive day." But he made it clear that progress was not going to happen overnight.

ABC News video of President Obama speaking at nuclear summit.
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"So this has been a day of great progress, but as I said this morning, this can't be a fleeting moment. Securing nuclear materials must be a serious and sustained global effort," the president said. "We agreed to have our experts meet on a regular basis -- to measure progress, to ensure that we're meeting our commitments, and to plan our next steps."

Representatives from all 47 nations signed off on a pledge to secure and dispose of all vulnerable fissile materials, like highly enriched uranium, that could be used to make a nuclear weapon.

The agreement is not legally binding.

Video of President Obama kicking off nuclear summit in Washington.
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"Some countries are signing that today, some have to go back home and work in through their systems," a national security official told ABC News.

Obama praised the world leaders for making "concrete commitments" and taking "tangible steps" to ensure that loose nuclear materials do not end up in the hands of terrorists.

"This evening I can report that we have seized this opportunity," he said of his stated goal going into this summit. "And because of the steps we've taken, as individual nations and as an international community, the American people will be safer and the world will be more secure."

China Agrees to Iran Sanctions

While the issue of Iran sanctions was admittedly separate from the summit's agenda, White House officials said that Iran would be on the table during Obama's numerous bilateral meeting with foreign leaders, as the United States continues to work though the U.N. Security Council to insist that Iran meet its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

After months of reluctance, the Chinese indicated their agreement to the concept of sanctions following President Obama's meeting Monday with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

White House officials called it "a sign of international unity on Iran," and Obama touted the news that the Chinese have sent representatives to New York to begin the process of drafting a sanctions resolution with the other members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (known as the "P5-plus-1"). But he said he was not interested in a "long drawn out process for months."

"I want to see us move forward boldly and quickly, to send the kind of message that will allow Iran to make a different calculation," he said.

Obama acknowledged that China, like other nations, is concerned about the ramifications that sanctions may have on Iran as an oil-producing country.

"A lot of countries around the world have trade relationships with Iran," he said. "And we're mindful of that."

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