President Barack Obama Remarks on Iran in News Conference (Excerpts)

February 9, 2010

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Q Iran -- we got the news today that they're doing more of these -- trying to enhance this uranium even more. Obviously Secretary Gates today in Paris was quoted as saying basically the dialogue seems to be over and now the question is sanctions. Where are we on sanctions? How close is this? I know you had sort of an end-of-the-year deadline when you stood up there with Sarkozy and Brown. It's now February. How quickly is this moving along?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's moving along fairly quickly. I think that we have bent over backwards to say to the Islamic Republic of Iran that we are willing to have a constructive conversation about how they can align themselves with international norms and rules and reenter as full members of the international community.

The most obvious attempt was when we gave them an offer that said we are going to provide the conversion of some of the low-enriched uranium that they already have into the isotopes that they need for their medical research and for hospitals that would serve up to a million Iranian citizens. They rejected it -- although one of the difficulties in dealing with Iran over the last several months is it's not always clear who's speaking on behalf of the government, and we get a lot of different, mixed signals. But what's clear is, is that they have not said yes to an agreement that Russia, China, Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States all said was a good deal, and that the director of the IAEA said was the right thing to do and that Iran should accept.

That indicates to us that, despite their posturing that their nuclear power is only for civilian use, that they in fact continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization. And that is not acceptable to the international community, not just to the United States. So what we've said from the start was we're moving on dual tracks. If you want to accept the kinds of agreements with the international community that lead you down a path of being a member of good standing, then we welcome you. If not --

Q Haven't they responded, though? I mean, by deciding to do what they did, with these --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm getting to that.

Q Okay.

THE PRESIDENT: And if not, then the next step is sanctions. They have made their choice so far, although the door is still open. And what we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole.

Q What do you mean by "regime of sanctions"?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, meaning that there's going to be a --

Q Some will be U.N. and some will be --

THE PRESIDENT: We are going to be looking at a variety of ways in which countries indicate to Iran that their approach is unacceptable. And the U.N. will be one aspect of that broader effort.

Q China will be there? You're confident?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the -- we are confident right now that the international community is unified around Iran's misbehavior in this area. How China operates at the Security Council as we pursue sanctions is something that we're going to have to see. One thing I'm pleased about is to see how forward-leaning the Russians have been on this issue. I think they clearly have seen that Iran hasn't been serious about solving what is a solvable dispute between Iran and the international community.

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