The U.S. administration hopes Iran will respond by fall to offers for diplomacy to solve the dispute surrounding its nuclear program, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday.

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has played down the possibility of a military strike against Iran over its nuclear program, which most Western countries believe is aimed at producing atomic weapons, and has called for negotiations on the issue.

"I think that the president is certainly anticipating or hoping for some kind of response this fall, perhaps by the time of the UN General Assembly," Gates said at a news conference in the at the Jerusalem King David hotel after meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak.

He stressed that the U.S. administration''s request for talks is "not an open-ended offer," and that Iran must not try to put off the issue.

The Israeli minister reiterated Israel''s position that a strike against Iran cannot be ruled out, saying: "We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table... We recommend that others take the same position, but we cannot dictate it to anyone."

Several analysts have said that Iran has the capacity to build a nuclear bomb and conduct a nuclear test similar to North Korea''s in the near future.