WASHINGTON - All evidence indicates that Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons, US President Barack Obama said Friday, adding that the US will be increasing the pressure on Tehran, with the international community's support.
"All the evidence indicates that the Iranians are trying to develop the capacity to develop nuclear weapons," Obama told CBS. "They might decide that, once they have that capacity that they'd hold off right at the edge - in order not to incur - more sanctions."
Obama added he intends to "ratchet up pressure" on Iran over its nuclear program and believes Tehran is becoming increasingly isolated.
Obama's interview with CBS was taped earlier this week and was aired Friday.
"The idea is to keep turning up the pressure," Obama said.
He reiterated that if Iran obtained the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, even if it did not actually make them, this would destabilize the Middle East and trigger a regional arms race.
"If they've got nuclear weapons-building capacity - and they are flouting international resolutions - that creates huge destabilizing effects in the region and will trigger an arms race in the Middle East that is…bad for the entire world," he said.
"We're going to ratchet up the pressure and examine how they respond but we're going to do so with a unified international community," Obama said.
He said the Iranian government had become increasingly isolated internationally since he took office in January 2009.
Obama discussed Iran and other issues with Chinese President Hu Jintao for about an hour on Thursday.
"President Obama underscored the importance of working together to ensure that Iran lives up to its international obligations," the White House said in a statement after the telephone call.
Officials will begin discussing a new round of sanctions against Iran at the United Nations next week.
Iran says its nuclear program is designed to produce electricity and is entirely peaceful.
Earlier Friday, Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said after a meeting with senior Chinese officials that Iran and China agreed during talks in Beijing that sanctions "have lost their effectiveness",
"In our talks with China it was agreed that tools such as sanctions have lost their effectiveness," Jalili told a news conference, speaking via a Chinese translator.
Asked if China backs sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, he said: "It's up to China to answer that."
Reuters contributed to the story