U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Friday warned Iran that opportunities for diplomacy over its disputed nuclear program were not unlimited but offered direct talks between Washington and Tehran, AFP reported.
Biden, who was interviewed by the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, was quoted said the "burden of proof" that Iran was not seeking a nuclear weapon lay with the authorities in Tehran.
"President (Barack) Obama has made clear that containment is not an option. We will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon," Biden was quoted as saying in remarks published in German.
"We think there is time and space for diplomacy -- accompanied with economic pressure. But this window will not be open for an unlimited time," he added.
Biden said Tehran could expect continued sanctions and increasing international pressure over its disputed nuclear drive, which Iran insists is entirely peaceful.
Iran and six world powers -- the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- held three rounds of talks last year aimed at easing the standoff over Iran's nuclear activities.
The six, known as the P5+1, called on Iran to scale back its program but stopped short of meeting Tehran's demands to scale back sanctions. The last round ended in stalemate in June in Moscow.
Biden said, according to AFP, "We are continuing with the P5+1 group to work for a diplomatic solution and we have said from the beginning that we are prepared to hold a bilateral meeting."
"The goal of the sanctions is not punishment. Iran must be persuaded that it has to live up to its international commitments," added Biden.
Another round of talks was initially expected to be held in December or January but a date and a location have still not been set. An EU spokesman hinted last week that Iran appears to be trying to delay the process by proposing different venues for the talks and coming up with new conditions.
Parallel talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency are set to resume on February 13 in Tehran.
Biden was echoing comments made Thursday by outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who told reporters on Thursday that the window for negotiations with Iran cannot stay open for “too much longer” but would not provide a deadline the end of the talks with the Islamic Republic.
“I don't think the window can remain open for too much longer (but) I am not going to put days, weeks or months on it,” Clinton said.
Her replacement, John Kerry, told Congress last week that "We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment, it is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance."
Kerry added that as secretary of state, he will work to give diplomacy every effort to succeed, but he said no one should mistake the U.S. resolve to reduce Iran's nuclear threat
Speaking to reporters on Friday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi over the weekend and urged Tehran to consider Biden's offer of bilateral talks.
"This is a hand that he is extending to the Iranian government and we will urge the Iranian government to take them up on this offer," Westerwelle said after meeting EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, according to AFP.
"Direct talks between Washington and Tehran are in the interest of all of our security, also in our interests as Europeans so we will make our contribution to creating the necessary atmosphere," added the minister.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)