Iran Rejects Obama's 'Carrot and Stick' Proposal

Iran on Monday rejected a proposal by President-elect Barack Obama that a combination of economic incentives and tighter sanctions might persuade the Iranian government to change its behavior.

Obama said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that aired Sunday that the international community could develop a set of incentives that would persuade Iran to alter its nuclear program. The U.S. and many of its allies suspect that Iran wants to develop weapons through its nuclear program, but Tehran says it is focused on power generation.

"You know, in terms of carrots, I think that we can provide economic incentives that would be helpful to a country that, despite being a net oil producer, is under enormous strain, huge inflation, a lot of unemployment problems there," said Obama.

But Iran has rejected past offers of economic incentives by the international community in exchange for scaling back its nuclear activities, a sentiment echoed Monday by Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi.

"The carrot-and-stick policy has no benefit," Qashqavi told reporters during his weekly press briefing. "It is unacceptable and failed."

Qashqavi reiterated Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment Monday and said the U.S. must recognize Iran's "nuclear right" before the country would dispel concerns about its program.

Obama also said that the U.S. should ratchet up direct diplomacy as a way to induce Iran to alter course on its nuclear program and cease support for militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Iranian government has expressed interest in more direct talks with the U.S. but has consistently refused to alter its nuclear program as a precondition.