US President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser, James Jones, said on Sunday that the door remains open for Iran to work with other countries on its nuclear program. He warned however, that the "picture is not a good one."
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Jones said the clock is ticking toward the end of the year.
Obama has said that by the beginning of 2010, it would be clear whether Teheran was ready to work with the United States, other UN Security Council members and Germany to assure the world it was not trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The Islamic republic has so far rejected calls to enter negotiations, and it is believed that the US president is preparing to seek harsher international penalties against Iran. Jones stressed that "the door remains open" for Iran to change course.
Jones also referred to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, saying the terror group head spends time in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Most recent US estimates have pinpointed bin Laden inside Pakistan. But Jones, a retired general, said the al-Qaida leader is "sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side."
The US military and its allies in Afghanistan were going to have to ensure bin Laden was "once again on the run or captured or killed," Jones said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also said it was important to capture or kill bin Laden and other leaders of al-Qaida.
Speaking Sunday on NBC television's "Meet the Press," Clinton said "enormous progress" could be made in the fight against terrorists even without his capture.
Earlier, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the US has for years failed to acquire any good intelligence concerning bin Laden's whereabouts.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Gates said he could not confirm recent reports that bin Laden had been seen recently in Afghanistan.