Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning Iran that it has only limited time to accept the Obama administration's offer of engagement or face new penalties and isolation over its nuclear program.
In remarks prepared for a major foreign policy address to be delivered Wednesday, Clinton says the time for Iran to respond to America's overture is now. She says "the opportunity will not remain open indefinitely."
Clinton accuses Iran of using "deplorable and unacceptable" actions to put down recent post-election protests. She says neither she nor President Barack Obama has illusions about the regime but says direct talks are the best way to get Iranian officials to change their policies.
Clinton spoke after the German weekly Stern cited experts from Germany's foreign intelligence agency BND as saying Iran is capable of producing and testing an atomic bomb within six months.
The experts said Iran had mastered the enrichment technology necessary to make a bomb and had enough centrifuges to make weaponized uranium. One experts was quoted as saying: "If they wanted to, they could detonate an atomic bomb in half a year's time."
But a BND spokesman said the article did not reflect the view of the agency, which is that Iran would not be able to produce an atomic bomb for years. "We are talking about several years not several months," the spokesman said.
After leaders of the G-8 nations announced they would not "wait forever" for the Iranian regime to relinquish its nuclear aspirations, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran was preparing a new set of proposals for the West.
He said the proposals would constitute "a good basis for negotiations". Mottaki spoke after an aide to Iran's supreme leader said the Islamic Republic would never halt its nuclear program.