U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran's refusal to accept an international incentives offer to negotiate curbs on its nuclear programme will force major powers to decide on Wednesday to deal with the Islamic Republic at the U.N. Security Council.

The time for Iran to give a clear indication that we are on the path of negotiations, not on the path of the Security Council, has come and the indications are that the decision will be forced tonight, Rice told reporters as she flew into Paris for talks on Iran with foreign ministers of major powers.

We have to decide tonight which path we are on ... If we have not received that 'Yes we are on the path of negotiations', then I think it is pretty clear by process of elimination that we are on the path of the Security Council.

Iran, which denies U.S. accusations it is pursuing the nuclear bomb, has said it will not respond to the package until next month.

With Russia and China resisting the United States, it is unclear how much international appetite there is for strong U.N. action against Iran.

Rice also left open the possibility of negotiations.

She said that even after the six countries, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, start focussing on Security Council action, Iran could still choose to negotiate.

Even if we are in the Security Council and the Iranians want to get off the track of the Security Council, of course the track of negotiation would always be there, she said.

At the Security Council, Rice said she first wants to make clear to Iran that the international community considers it mandatory for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

But she also held out the threat of ultimately imposing U.N. sanctions on the country.

The question of sanctions and what they should look like, we have gone through an extensive discussion of what might be available to us, she said.