The White House on Tuesday warned Iran to take seriously a year-end deadline over its nuclear program, saying the international community is prepared to take the "next steps" if Iran does not accept a U.N.-drafted deal.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called it a "very real deadline," after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday dismissed the ultimatum, set by President Obama and international allies, for the country to agree to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.
"We don't care" about deadlines, Ahmadinejad said in a defiant speech to supporters in the southern city of Shiraz.
"We are not afraid of sanctions against us and we are not intimidated," he said, addressing the West. He said Iran would be "brave enough" to tell the West if it were making a bomb, but gloated that his country is "10 times stronger than last year" and will not allow the United States to "dominate" the Middle East.
Top Obama administration officials have suggested in recent weeks that the international community is prepared to impose more sanctions on Iran if it continues to defy pressure to shift course on its nuclear program.
"I think that the international community is united in this," Gibbs said Tuesday. "Mr. Ahmadinejad may not recognize, for whatever reason, the deadline that looms, but that is a very real deadline for the international community."
He said Iran still has an "opportunity to take steps to fulfill their international responsibilities," but expressed doubt that Iran would.
"We not only haven't seen that from the Iranians, we've actually seen throughout the course of this year and the past several years attempts to very much hide what their activities were," he said.
"This administration, working through the (International Atomic Energy Agency) and its allies, have taken steps to bring the international community along. And if Iran fails to live up to those obligations by the end of the year, we'll take our next steps."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.