The Obama administration's UN ambassador today rebutted the assertion that UN sanctions designed to discourage Iran from pursuing its nuclear program are failing.
"The sanctions that have been imposed by the United Nations and implemented by the United States and others have had some significant effect on the trade and the banking and the financial sector inside of Iran, and we certainly remain open to consideration of possible future measures," Ambassador Susan Rice said in an exclusive "This Week" interview with George Stephanopoulos.
"The aim here, though, is to marshal all of the resources at our disposal, diplomatic, economic, and other to try to make this choice as clear as possible to Iran, to give them a path to end their nuclear -- illicit nuclear weapons program, enter the community of nations, or, if in fact, they ultimately choose not to do that, then to bring to bear the full force of the international community to put pressure on Iran to stop," she added in her first Sunday morning interview since joining the administration.
"The president has been very clear that Iran has a choice. Iran can rejoin the community of nations, it can halt its illicit nuclear program. It has a right to peaceful nuclear processing. But its behavior to date has indicated that it's not pursuing simply a peaceful program."
Israel has said it believes Iran is pursuing military nuclear capability. "We share Israel's very grave concern about the threat that Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program poses, not only to Israel and the other countries in the region, but indeed to U.S. national security," Rice said.
But she also said she does not think it's "productive to speculate about what may transpire ... the president has said on a number of occasions, our aim is to use all of the elements at our disposal, including direct diplomacy, to offer Iran a path away from an illicit nuclear weapons program. But obviously if that path is not chosen, we have not ruled out any options."
Asked if she is confident that Israel will not strike without U.S. consent, Rice declined to speculate what the U.S. or others might do. "At this stage our focus is on steering Iran to the extent we possibly can towards a different course," she said.
Last week the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, made brief contact with the Iranians at an international conference in Munich. Asked what will be the next step in engagement with Iran, Rice explained "we have extended, as the president said on a number of occasions, an opportunity, an open hand to Iran. And we hope Iran will seize that opportunity to take the steps that would enable it to be a responsible member of the international community."
Rice also offered some insight into her relationship so far with her Iranian counterpart at the U.N. "We've run into each other on a couple of occasions and I've had an opportunity to have some brief exchanges...no negotiations."
Reacting to the news today that North Korea tested a long-range ballistic missile, Rice said that the U.S. will review its assessment of North Korea's capability to launch a nuclear weapon towards the U.S. "Our concern is to prevent North Korea from pursuing and disseminating nuclear weapons," she said.