US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew expressed hope the economic sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program will work, because "the alternatives are worse."
Lew -- whose Treasury Department is tasked with enforcing the sanctions -- was speaking Sunday at a conference in Aspen, Colorado.
"It would be the best thing for Iran and the best thing for the world if economic sanctions worked because the alternatives are worse for Iran and for the world," Lew said.
"I don't think any (US) president should make the decision about whether or not to go beyond the sanctions without having exhausted the tools available," he added.
For years, the US and the international community have imposed an arsenal of sanctions against Iran, accusing it of using its civilian nuclear energy program as a cover for attempts to build atomic weapons -- charges Tehran denies.
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The US treasury secretary painted a bleak picture of Iran's economy where, he said, "sanctions are working."
"We are seeing it in Iran's GDP, we are seeing it in the value of the rial, in the employment rate, in the inflation rate. It's not a pretty picture from an economic perspective."
Lew called the current sanctions the "toughest sanctions in history," and credited an international united front: "We have not seen the kind of slippage in international support for sanctions that some people have speculated about."
"The goal is not to hurt the Iranian people. The goal is to change their decision," the Obama administration official said.
"They just had an election and we are going to need to see whether this has consequences," he added, noting that such changes would "require decisions that are made at their highest level."