US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice downplayed threats made on Sunday by Iran's top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to disrupt the oil supply to the West if his nation were to come under attack over its disputed nuclear program.
"I think that we shouldn't place too much emphasis on a threat of this kind. After all, Iran is also very dependent on oil revenue. I think something like 80 percent of Iran's budget comes from oil revenue, and so obviously it would be a very serious problem for Iran if oil were disrupted on the market," Rice told Fox News Sunday.
A senior EU official will hand Iran a six-nation package of rewards and penalities meant to stop Tehran's uranium enrichment program, diplomats said Monday. Chief European Union foreign policy official Javier Solana had been expected to present the proposal to Iranian officials sometime this week, but the precise day had not been divulged.
The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anoymity because the timetable was confidential, said Solana would submit the package to Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Tuesday.
According to Rice, "We have made very clear and will make very clear that the international community is not prepared to wait while Iran continues down this path. The Iranians will get the proposal. They obviously need some time to look at it."
"I'm not one for time lines and specific schedules. But I think it's fair to say that we really do have to have this settled over a matter of weeks, not months. It really can't be," she stressed.
Commenting on the US decision to talk with Iran if it halts uranium enrichment, Rice said, "It was a time in which we ourselves said that we would make some steps like supporting Iran's right to an application to the WTO. That was a decision the president made over a year ago."
"This is a natural follow-on because if the negotiations are going to succeed, if that track is going to have a chance for success, it's pretty obvious that the United States has to be at the table," she said.