The United States has warned it may seek tough new sanctions on Iran if the Islamic republic misses a September deadline for agreeing to hold talks on its suspect nuclear programme.
US lawmakers have been pushing President Barack Obama to squeeze Iran by targeting its heavy reliance on gasoline imports, and The New York Times said that a White House envoy had discussed that option with Israel last week.
"We're not prepared to talk about any specific steps," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday after holding a video conference with US diplomats around the world who keep a close eye on Iran.
"But I have said repeatedly that, in the absence of some positive response from the Iranian government, the international community will consult about next steps, and certainly next steps can include certain sanctions," she said.
Because of a lack of domestic refining capacity, oil-rich Iran is dependent on gasoline imports to meet about 40 percent of domestic consumption.
For months, US lawmakers have pushed legislation targeting firms that provide such imports, or otherwise invest in Iran's energy sector, as a way to get Tehran to end its defiance of global pressure over its nuclear programme.
Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France's Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.