WASHINGTON - The "clock is ticking" on an American offer to engage Iran in negotiations, US National Security Adviser James Jones told CNN Sunday.
"The door is still open. But unfortunately the picture Iran is painting is not a good one. But we are still open to negotiations," he said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union", calling the Western proposal on uranium enrichment "fair, very reasonable."
General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is driving worried Gulf countries into US arms with his threats to expand Tehran's suspect nuclear program.
"President Ahmadinejad and the Irani (Iranian) leaders continue to be the best recruiters for Central Command as we embark on our partnership plans," General Petraeus said on Fox News.
"They've caused enormous worry and concern by those on the western side of the Gulf," he said.
The general also said most experts question Iran's ability to build 10 more uranium enrichment plants -- "or anything remotely approaching that" -- as the Iranian leader threatened last week.
Ahmadinejad issued the threat after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, censured it for building a second undeclared uranium enrichment plant, which the United States fears is aimed at producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.
In light of the IAEA's resolution against Iran, Washington is calling to defer the issue to the Security Council.
Ahmadinejad, spurning a Western offer for foreign countries to enrich its uranium for a research nuclear reactor in Tehran, has gone on to vow that Iran would enrich its uranium stockpile to 20 percent on its own.
The US, France, Britain and Germany have agreed in principle on a fresh round of sanctions against Iran, and there is a good chance Russia will join them as well. The new sanctions, which will seek to directly hurt the Revolutionary Guard, are expected to be approved by January.
AFP contributed to the report