Obama to Amanpour: Progress on Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran

Administration waiting to see if Iran willing to negotiate after Ramadan.

ByABC News
August 4, 2010, 3:56 PM

Aug. 5, 2010 -- President Obama says international sanctions against Iran are creating "disquiet" there, and he suggested that the United States would seek to sketch out a series of steps that Iran could take to reassure the world about whether it intends to become a nuclear threat.

We have picked up "rumblings that there is disquiet about the impact" in Iran about the latest sanctions, the president told me Wednesday at the White House, although he did not go into specifics.

The President's comments to a small group of journalists come a day after the U.S. Treasury Department tightened sanctions against Iran to include an additional 21 entities tied to Iran's leadership and government, the latest in a series of measures including separate sanctions approved by both the UN Security Council and the U.S. Congress in June.

A senior administration official told ABC News that "we want to ratchet up the pressure, but there's always going to be an open door for Iranians to walk through."

This had been a contentious point during the 2008 election. Obama, as a candidate, said at the time he would be open to direct talks with Iran, and Republicans attacked him as naive about dealing with international adversaries. In this interview, Obama put that issue firmly back on the table for the first time in his presidency.

President Obama said he believes the costs of the sanctions are going to be higher than Iran could have anticipated, but he is not sure yet whether that cost-benefit analysis will override "what may be an ideological or nationalistic commitment to nuclear weapons."

At the same time, the President said it was very important for there to be a set of steps for Iran to show they are not pursuing nuclear weapons and that lays out a pathway whereby they know what they should say yes to.

While Mr. Obama said it would be "premature to map out, to lay out a precise roadmap," he added, "We should lay out with specificity" a series of steps Iran can take to convince the international community of its intentions.

Another US official said in addition to the hardship created by the sanctions, the administration believes that "Iran is having technical difficulties moving ahead with key components to produce fissile materials."