DOHA, Qatar – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has told an international conference that Iran has left the world little choice but to take harsher action to contain its nuclear program.
Clinton tells the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha (DOH'-hah), Qatar (GUH'-tur), that Iran has not lived up to its nuclear obligations.
She also says Iran has rebuffed U.S. and international efforts to engage in serious negotiations on the nuclear issue.
As a result, Clinton said in her speech Sunday, the U.S. and others are working on "new measures" to try to persuade Iran to change its course.
The United States and some of its allies suspect Tehran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge and says it only has peaceful intentions.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched a quick visit to two Persian Gulf allies Sunday as part of a broad effort to shore up support for a tougher stand against Iran's nuclear program.
Her stops in Qatar and in Saudi Arabia coincide with a string of diplomatic and military contacts in the Middle East, including a Sunday visit to Egypt by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Clinton's top three deputies — James Steinberg, Jacob Lew and William Burns — were expected in the region in coming days, as was Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command with responsibility for U.S. military operations across the Middle East.
Their agenda is not focused exclusively on Iran. There also is an American push for closer cooperation in Yemen against al-Qaida, a move toward bolstering diplomatic relations with Syria and efforts to get Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations back on track.
Clinton's trip follows closely on the Iranian president's claim that his country had produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also insisted on Thursday that Iran had no intention of building nuclear weapons, yet would not be bullied by the West into curtailing its nuclear program — a reference to new U.S. financial penalties imposed a day earlier.
At a news conference before her speech to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, Clinton criticized Iran's defiance and said Tehran would not succeed in overcoming international opposition to it nuclear ambitions.
"We do not believe Iran should be a nuclear weapons power," she said.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed confidence that the U.N. would agree to tougher penalties.
"We have the support of everyone from Russia to Europe. And I believe we'll get the support of China to continue to impose sanctions on Iran to isolate them, to make it clear that in fact they cannot move forward. The progress that Iran has made on the nuclear front is greatly exaggerated in my view," he told NBC's "Meet the Press," from Canada, where he was attending the Olympics.
President Barack Obama has said that work to broaden economic sanctions in the U.N. Security Council is moving along quickly, but he has given no specific timeline. China, one of five permanent members of the Security Council, has close economic ties to Iran and can block a resolution by itself.
"We need to work on China a little bit more," added Obama's national security adviser, James Jones. "But China wants to be seen as a responsible global influence in this. On this issue, they can't, they cannot be nonsupportive," he told "Fox News Sunday."
The United States and some of its allies suspect Tehran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons but Tehran denies the charge, saying it has only has peaceful intentions.
After an overnight flight from Washington, Clinton went directly into a series of high-level meetings in the Qatari capital ahead of her evening speech. In the address, she was expected to elaborate on President Barack Obama's call for a new level of engagement with the Muslim world.
Obama addressed the forum by video on Saturday, announcing that he is appointing a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
In Cairo, Mullen met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and said afterward that Iran is a key challenge to the security of the Middle East. He accused Tehran of spreading its radical influence in Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and Iraq, and said the U.S. would work through the Security Council to seek new sanctions.
On Monday Clinton is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia — first to the capital, Riyadh, and then on Tuesday to the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
It is Clinton's first visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia as secretary of state. She delayed her departure from Washington by one day after her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was hospitalized in New York on Thursday for a heart procedure.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both situated across the Persian Gulf from Iran, are concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions. They are seen by the Obama administration as an important part of a regional effort to persuade the Iranians that it is in their economic interest to give up their uranium enrichment program as called for in a series of Security Council resolutions that Iran has ignored.
The State Department's top Middle East policy officer, Jeffrey Feltman, who was accompanying Clinton, told reporters on the flight from Washington that Iran would figure prominently in Clinton's discussions in both Qatar and in Saudi Arabia.
Feltman said the U.S. believes the two Gulf allies, as well as other countries in the region, can help "sharpen the question for Iran" as to whether it is better off continuing to seek higher-enriched uranium that is closer to weapons grade or halt the program.
"We would expect them (Gulf allies) to use their relationship in ways that can help increase the pressure that Iran feels," Feltm
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.