The Bush administration said Wednesday a proposal by Iran for nuclear negotiations falls short of U.N. demands that it cease uranium enrichment, and the U.S. began plotting unspecified "next moves" with other governments.
Those could include U.N. sanctions against Iran unless it reverses course and agrees to a verifiable halt to enrichment activities that can be central to making nuclear weapons.
The State Department, in a terse statement, acknowledged that Iran considered its proposal to be a serious one. "We will review it," the statement said in what appeared to be a conciliatory gesture to a government it regularly denounces as a sponsor of terror.
But the statement went on to say that Iran's response to a joint offer of U.S, and European trade and other benefits if the enrichment program was halted "falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council" - full and verifiable suspension of all uranium-enrichment activity.
"We are consulting closely, including with other members of the Security Council, on next steps," it said. The United Nations has set a deadline of next Thursday for a formal reply by Tehran.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report that concluded Iran was a strategic threat and a country focused on developing nuclear weapons capability. It also linked Iran to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups.
"Iran's support of radical Islamists with weapons and money demonstrates in real terms the danger it poses to America and our allies," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. He said Iran "will not be satisfied until it poses a threat to the entire world."
The report also said there are gaps in the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to keep up with developments in Iran's nuclear program and suggested hiring more intelligence agents who speak Farsi.