American President Barack Obama said Thursday the United States has begun talking with allies about fresh punishment against Iran for defying efforts to halt its nuclear weapons pursuits, and could have a package of steps to take 'within weeks'.
Obama's tough talk came as Iran indicated it would not ship its low-enriched uranium to Russia for processing, the centerpiece of deal aimed at a peaceful resolution to Iran's contested nuclear program.
"They have been unable to get to `yes', and so as a consequence, we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences," Obama said in a brief news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
Obama did not get more specific about the nature of any new sanctions, which would require commitments of international support that are hardly clear yet.
Iran has ruled out sending enriched uranium abroad for further processing, but will consider swapping it for nuclear fuel provided it remained under supervision inside the country, the ISNA news agency said, making one of its most negative comments yet on a nuclear reprocessing plan brokered by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In Manila, visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki dismissed the possibility of further sanctions.
"Sanction was the literature of the 60s and 70s," he said at a news conference. "I think they are wise enough not to repeat failed experiences," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "Of course it's totally up to them."
'Not an unlimited amount of time'
Obama said he still hoped Iran would change its mind and that Washington and its allies would consider a package of potential steps to indicate to Iran their seriousness.
"Our expectation is that, over the next several weeks, we will be developing a package of potential steps that we could take, that would indicate our seriousness to Iran," he said.
But he said Iran would not be given an unlimited amount of time, likening the Iranian nuclear issue to the years of stop-and-start negotiations with North Korea about its nuclear ambitions.
"We weren't going to duplicate what has happened with North Korea, in which talks just continue forever without any actual resolution to the issue," said Obama, who has advocated a policy of increased engagement, rather than confrontation, on thorny international issues.
He said he had confidence in the approach to Iran.
"I continue to hold out the prospect that they may decide to walk through this door. I hope they do," he said.
"But what I'm pleased about is the extraordinary international unity that we've seen. If you think at the beginning of the year, how disjointed international efforts were and how uneven perceptions were about Iran's nuclear program, and where we are today, I think it's an indication that we've taken the right approach."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report