WASHINGTON – The world is losing patience with Iran's behavior over its nuclear program and Tehran will be responsible for the consequences if it fails to meet its obligations, the White House said on Friday.
Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama's chief spokesman, said a vote by the U.N. nuclear watchdog to rebuke Iran illustrated the "resolve and unity" of the international community over Iran's nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors voted 25-3 to censure Iran in a decision that gained rare backing from Russia and China, which have in the past blocked attempts to isolate Iran, a trade partner for both.
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"Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out," Gibbs said in a statement.
"If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences."
U.S. officials emphasized the IAEA's vote showed a broad consensus among global powers.
"The fact that 25 countries from all parts of the world cast their votes in favor shows the urgent need for Iran to address the growing international deficit of confidence in its intentions," Gibbs said.
One U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stressed that a "package of consequences" would result if Iran did not prove to be a serious partner in talks with world powers about its nuclear program.
Western governments fear the program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons but Iran denies the charge.
"We hope that the board of governors resolution reinforces the message that, you know, we're committed to putting together a package of consequences if we don't find a willing partner," the official told reporters.
"We hope Iran takes note of that clear message."
The U.S. envoy to the IAEA, Ambassador Glynn Davies, said in Vienna on Friday that international patience with Iran was running out and that "round after round" of fruitless talks could not continue.
The U.S. official declined to be drawn on what sort of consequences were being contemplated, although British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said harsher sanctions could be on the way if Iran ignored the IAEA vote.
Obama and European leaders have given Iran until the end of the year to begin talks on the nuclear stalemate.
The U.S. official said Russia and China, along with other negotiators United States, Britain, France, and Germany, were agreed on what should happen next if Tehran fails to respond.
"It is significant, as I said before, that both of those parties strongly supported this step in the board of governors," the official said, referring to Russia and China.
"They are fully committed to a two-track strategy ... we intend to take this very steadily and step by step."
Another U.S. official said China -- seen as the most reluctant of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to sanction Iran -- had played a useful role in the IAEA discussion and even suggested language that was included in the final resolution.
"They had a certain degree of authorship," the official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said, calling final passage of the resolution "very much a collective effort."
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