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Page last updated at 20:00 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Obama vows 'significant' sanctions against Iran

US President Obama: "The next step is sanctions"

US President Barack Obama has said the US and its allies are developing a "significant regime of sanctions" against Iran for its nuclear programme.

He said the international community was unified over Iran's "misbehaviour".

Speaking in Washington, he said despite Tehran's denials, it was clear Iran was working to build nuclear weapons.

His remarks came after Iranian state media reported that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20% for use in a medical research reactor.

Russian disapproval

In an unexpected appearance in the White House briefing room, Mr Obama said the US was confident the international community was "unified around Iran's misbehaviour in this area".

He said the new push for sanctions on Iran was "moving along fairly quickly" and should be completed in the next few weeks.

URANIUM ENRICHMENT
BBC graphic
Iran says it is increasing uranium enrichment from 3.5% needed for commercial nuclear reactors
Says it will enrich to 20%, needed for a research reactor near Tehran
Weapons-grade uranium is at least 90% enriched
Experts say achieving 20% is a key step towards weapons grade

Mr Obama also said he was pleased at Russia's quick disapproval of Iran's latest move.

But he said it was unclear how China would respond to a new push at the UN Security Council for another round of sanctions against Iran.

China, a UN Security Council member, has called for further talks over the issue.

China and Russia have been reluctant in the past to support international sanctions against Iran.

"How China operates at the Security Council as we pursue sanctions is something we're going to have to see," Mr Obama said.

The five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - have a veto over resolutions, including sanctions.

Iran currently enriches uranium to a level of 3.5% but requires 20% enriched uranium for its research reactor, which is meant to produce medical isotopes. A bomb would require uranium enriched to at least 90%.

The US and its Western allies say Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon - a charge Iran denies.

In October, a deal brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was thought to have been struck for Iran to send its uranium to Russia and France for enrichment.

But last month, diplomats said Iran had told the IAEA that it did not accept the terms of the deal - though there have since been other, conflicting messages.

Also on Tuesday, US state department spokesman PJ Crowley said the international community was willing to help Iran secure medical isotopes from abroad.

The offer would help to "build some confidence" and show Iran that enriching uranium to 20% purity was "unnecessary", Reuters news agency quoted him saying.



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