LIMA: Iran must respond to international concerns about its suspect nuclear program, or face additional punitive sanctions, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Saturday.
The West worries Iran is trying to develop an atomic bomb under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program but Tehran insists its intentions are purely peaceful.
"Our hope would be that the most important thing that they could do at this point is to engage seriously with the international community to try to resolve this issue," Panetta said during a visit to Peru.
"Hopefully they will do that, but if they don't, make no mistake, the international community will continue to impose additional sanctions," he added, stressing that the United States and its allies are unified in their effort to stop Tehran's uranium enrichment activities.
Protests in the Iranian capital this week that saw occasional scuffles with police show that sanctions are having a "significant impact" on the country's economy, according to the Pentagon chief.
In one week, Iran's rial currency has shed around 40 percent of its value, sharply accelerating a slide that has gone on over the course of this year as Western sanctions have worsened the Islamic republic's underlying economic woes.
Israel is seeking to convince the international community to strengthen sanctions against Iran. A French official said the European Union is considering the possibility of "hardening" them further.
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