WASHINGTON Sanctions against Iran may be working better than originally expected, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday, as his French counterpart urged allies to show no weakness going forward.
The comments by Gates came just days after a veteran Iranian politician criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for failing to counter the impact of the economic sanctions, and said the Islamic Republic was under unprecedented global pressure.
Gates, emerging from talks with France's Herve Morin, said the U.N. sanctions approved in June had provided a crucial legal platform for individual nations to enact additional measures.
The sanctions are aimed at pressuring Tehran to curb its nuclear program, which the West fears might be aimed at making a bomb. Iran says its atomic ambitions are peaceful.
"I think our discussion (on Iran) today was really about the fact that the sanctions have ended up being more effective and more severe than perhaps we might have expected before the U.N. resolution was passed," Gates said.
Morin added, "All of this bears fruits ... debate is starting to exist within the leading Iranian political group."
"We have to display absolute determination," Morin, speaking through a translator at the Pentagon, said on the application of the sanctions. "On this topic, nobody should display any kind of weakness."
The comments came before a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York next week, where foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are expected to meet on the sidelines to discuss the sanctions.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Alexander; Editing by Peter Cooney)