WASHINGTON U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday it was likely Washington will seek another U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution on Iran because of its nuclear program, but no decision had been made.
"We are certainly exploring it and I think we probably think, at this point, it's likely we would pursue one, but we haven't made the decision," Rice said in a interview with U.S. newspaper reporters.
The Security Council voted unanimously on December 23 to impose sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology in an effort to stop enrichment work that could be used in atomic bombs.
Rice's comments were the clearest indication by a senior U.S. official that the United States is seriously considering a second resolution on Iran, which Washington accuses of seeking atomic weapons under the cover of a civil nuclear program.
Iran says its program is for peaceful power generation.
"We are talking to the other parties about whether to do a second resolution and what it might entail," Rice said, saying the first resolution -- which was weaker than the United States had wanted -- had a "very profound effect" within Iran.
"We have to look at whether we think a further resolution is going to have further effect in ... making the Iranians question the road that they are on," she added.
Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on February 7 that if Iran continues to defy U.N. Security Council demands that it halt enrichment the council "must stand ready to consider additional measures" after receiving an IAEA report on Feb 21.
U.S. and European officials said the administration initially underestimated the U.N. resolution but now believes it has had an important impact by fueling debate in Iran over how to deal with the West.
IAEA Executive Director Mohammed ElBaradei is due to report on February 21 on Iran's compliance with the U.N. demands. Instead of halting enrichment, as the U.N. has demanded, the Islamic republic has taken steps to move from research to full-scale enrichment, upping the stakes in a standoff with the West.
Russia, the main opponent to the first sanctions resolution, is expected to once again seek to thwart or weaken a second resolution, but U.S. officials have said Iran's push to full-scale enrichment could cause Moscow to rethink its stance.