WASHINGTON – The United States is preparing for "very tough sanctions" against Iran if the new US approach to Iran fails, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told US lawmakers Wednesday.
Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that President Barack Obama's administration is pursuing a dual-track strategy with Iran, when asked about the risk that US dialogue fails to check Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"We are more than willing to reach out to the Iranians to discuss a range of issues," if Tehran reciprocates, Clinton said.
"We are also laying the groundwork for the kind of very tough sanctions, I think you said crippling sanctions, that might be necessary in the event that our offers are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful," Clinton said.
Clinton gave her testimony when she appeared in Congress for the first time since her confirmation hearings in January.
Iran said on Wednesday it is ready for "constructive dialogue" with world powers on its nuclear drive, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed the US policy shift towards Tehran.
Chief nuclear negotiator Said Jalili, quoted by local news agencies, declared that Iran would not halt its nuclear program, which Western nations fear could be a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb, but which Iran insists is aimed only at generating electricity.
Ahmadinejad said last week he would present a new package for negotiations aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff, after the so-called P5+1 group of world powers called for dialogue with Iran.
Last week, Ahmadinejad said Iran's package of proposals would be presented to the P5+1 -- UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.
He said the package was a new version of proposals offered by Iran in May 2008, which it described as an all-embracing attempt to solve the problems of the world, and suggested setting up consortiums to enrich uranium and manufacturing nuclear fuel, including one in Iran.
Clinton said participating in the P5+1 "give us more leverage with other nations."
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