Clinton raises possibility of new sanctions against Iran

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. —Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the Obama administration has concluded that the best way to pressure Iran to come clean on its nuclear ambitions is to impose sanctions aimed at the country's ruling elite.

"It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran," she told reporters traveling with her on the way to Hawaii. "They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions. But all that is yet to be decided upon."

Officials from the six nations trying to persuade Iran to prove that its nuclear intentions are peaceful said senior diplomats from the group are preparing to meet — possibly later this week in New York — to discuss the way ahead, including potential sanctions.

Clinton was not specific about those inside Iran who might be targeted with sanctions. Her allusion to Iranian leaders with political and commercial ties, however, suggested that she was referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite group that is separate from the Iranian military and is charged with protecting the Islamic revolution that brought the clerics to power in 1979.

Clinton said the administration's thinking developed as part of consultations with a wide range of other countries. She said the U.S. remains interested in engaging with Iran, even as it considers ways to pressure Tehran through sanctions.

Clinton said no final decisions on sanctions have been made.

Iran has balked at agreeing to curtail a nuclear program that the U.S. and other nations fear is aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran insists the program is strictly for peaceful purposes.