Page last updated at 18:28 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 19:28 UK

US offer to Iran 'not indefinite'

Hillary Clinton speaks in Washington on 15 July 2009
Hillary Clinton reiterated US criticism of Iran's post-election violence

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Iran the US will not extend its offer of engagement indefinitely.

In a foreign policy speech, Mrs Clinton said Iran must respond to President Barack Obama's overtures now.

If not, Iran could face more isolation over its nuclear programme, she added. She said the US was appalled by the way Iran had quelled post-poll protests.

Mrs Clinton, who visits India later this week, also announced plans to visit Pakistan in the autumn.

She said America would welcome those who renounced militancy in Afghanistan and that success there required close co-operation from neighbouring Pakistan to defeat the Taliban.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington says there were really no new ideas in the speech.

'No illusions'

He says there has been speculation in the US capital that Mrs Clinton's aim in the speech was to reassert her leadership in foreign policy.

Neither the president nor I have any illusions that direct dialogue with the Islamic Republic will guarantee success
Hillary Clinton

It came after a week in which President Obama, Vice-President Biden and a trio of influential special envoys have enjoyed high profiles on the global stage, our correspondent notes.

He also says Mrs Clinton took a side-swipe at the Bush administration by saying that its policy of shunning Iran had not worked.

"Neither the president nor I have any illusions that direct dialogue with the Islamic Republic will guarantee success of any kind and the prospects have certainly shifted in the weeks following the election," she said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

"But we also understand the importance of offering to engage Iran and giving its leaders a clear choice: whether to join the international community as a responsible member, or to continue down a path to further isolation."

She added: "We remain ready to engage with Iran but the time for action is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely."

Mrs Clinton said the US had watched last month's election in Iran with great admiration but was "appalled" by the government's heavy-handed response to protesters who disputed the result.

Violent street protests broke out in Iran after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in the 12 June election.

Some 17 people were thought to have died during days of clashes.

Mr Obama has talked of engagement with Iran but has not made clear how that might take place.

Shortly after coming to office in January, Mr Obama said: "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fists, they will find an extended hand from us."

The US fears Iran's nuclear programme is a cover to build atomic weapons, a charge Iranian officials deny.

Enriched uranium can be used to make atomic weapons, but can also be used in nuclear power plants.

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