JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the "evidence doesn't support" Iran's claim it has peaceful nuclear aims as she defended a US push for sanctions against Tehran.
Clinton gave the remarks when a student at a Saudi women's college asked why Washington was taking a tough line on Iran when Israel allegedly has nuclear arms and the United States is the only country to have used them in war.
"Iran is the largest supporter of terrorism in the world today," she told students at Dar el-Hekma women's college in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea port of Jeddah, a more liberal part of the conservative Muslim kingdom.
"And the questions keep building. They say they are only doing this for nuclear peaceful purposes, but the evidence doesn't support that," Clinton told hundreds of students.
Clinton did not mention Israel, which is widely considered the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, but said agreements have been reached over decades to avert the threat of nuclear war, like the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Under such an agreement, which Iran has signed, declared nuclear powers try to limit, reduce and safeguard such weapons while those that do not have them, like Iran, agree not to pursue them, Clinton said.
But Iran, she said, has raised doubts whether it is pursuing nuclear weapons when it announces it seeks to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity, admits it built a secret uranium plant near Qom and balks at international offers to hand over low-grade uranium to be upgraded abroad.
She added that concerns are fueled further because Iran has threatened other countries and funded groups that have carried out "terrorist" attacks in other countries, including in Saudi Arabia.
"So that is why the United States and many other countries are concerned," she said.
"We are going to try to go to the United Nations and get additional sanctions that will perhaps convince the Iranians themselves to change direction."
President Barack Obama's administration is seeking a world free of nuclear weapons, which includes a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, "including everyone," she said.
"If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, that hope disappears," she said, adding it will provoke an arms race among countries in the region to protect themselves against Tehran.
One of the students in the audience told reporters she was not satisfied with Clinton's response to the Iran nuclear issue.
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