The U.S. Secretary of Defense admitted sanctions have not contributed to end Iran's nuclear aspirations
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged Monday that increasingly stiff international sanctions have yet to compel Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. But he argued that more pressure eventually would lead Iran to “do what’s right.”
Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which Tehran contends is only for peaceful purposes, is a prominent backdrop to Panetta’s five-day tour of the Middle East and North Africa. On Wednesday he’ll be in Israel, whose leaders have said they are contemplating a military attack on Iran to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, a step they view as a threat to Israel’s very existence.
The Obama administration wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to steer Iran off its nuclear course, although Panetta repeated the administration’s standard line that “all options” are on the table in the event that non-military pressure does not work.
“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy in Iran,” he told reporters during a visit to the North Africa American Military Cemetery, where 2,841 U.S. servicemen killed in the North Africa campaign against Nazi Germany in 1942-1943 are buried.
“And while the results of that may not be obvious at the moment, the fact is that they have expressed a willingness to negotiate (with the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) and they continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution,” he said.
Those on-again, off-again negotiations have not come close to resolving a problem that U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has cast as one of the biggest failures of the Obama administration. Romney was in Israel this week showing support for Israel and asserting that if he were president Iran would never get the atomic bomb.
Panetta, who has declined to comment on Romney’s visit to Israel, stuck to his argument that the administration’s current approach is the right one.
“What we all need to do is to continue the pressure on Iran, economically and diplomatically … to negotiate and to ultimately do what’s right in joining the international family,” he added.
After meeting in Tunis with the country’s new Islamist leaders, Panetta was headed to Egypt for talks with its new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo, as well as Egyptian military leader Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.
In his remarks at the U.S. military cemetery, Panetta said Washington plans to promote closer counterterrorism cooperation with Tunisia’s new leaders. Panetta’s press secretary, George Little, said the Pentagon chief also raised the idea of more U.S. assistance in securing Tunisia’s border with Libya and in Tunisian maritime security. Little said specifics were not discussed.
Little said the U.S. is worried about the spread of al-Qaida’s influence in North Africa, while adding that “the sense is that the threat here (in Tunisia) is not as great as elsewhere” in the region.
Tunisia was the launching pad for the wave of revolt that swept through the Arab world in 2011. It had one of the most repressive governments in the region. The uprising began in December 2010 when a fruit vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid to protest his lack of economic opportunity and the disrespect of the police.
The transition here from dictatorship to democracy has been smoother than in neighboring countries like Libya and Egypt, with no power-hungry military or armed militias to stifle the progress. But there is an increasingly bold ultraconservative Muslim minority who want to turn Tunisia into a strict Islamic state.
More Related Stories
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11