WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday that targeted economic sanctions on Iran had "real potential" to pressure Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution this month to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear development, which Western nations say is a cover for building atomic weapons. Tehran says the program is for civilian energy use.
"Targeted economic pressures has real potential," Gates told the Fox News Sunday program when asked if he saw any signs that Iran's resolve to push ahead with its nuclear program was weakening in the face of the sanctions.
"I think there is a reasonable chance of getting the Iranian regime to finally come to their senses and realize that their security is probably more in danger by going forward," Gates said.
Washington and the European Union already have their own sanctions on Tehran. Western diplomats hope that a fourth round of UN sanctions, combined with diplomatic pressure, will force Iran to halt its nuclear development.
Gates added, however, that all options, including a military strike, were still on the table in dealing with Tehran on the nuclear issue.
He said the US administration would not accept a nuclear Iran and that Washington's policy is geared toward preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear capabilities.
The defense secretary also addressed Obama's efforts to see progress on the diplomatic front while improving the ability of region's nations to defend themselves. In this regard, he said, Washington is helping the Gulf States improve their military capabilities.