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Rubio puts foreign policy credentials center stage

NEW YORK -– Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) put his foreign policy credentials on center stage on Thursday during an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations.

On the heels of a trip to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the possible vice presidential contender warned that negotiations with Iran are likely to fail, raising the prospects of a military action against Iran.

"I think we need to begin to prepare the people of the country and the world to the reality that negotiations are probably not going to work and ultimately sanctions may also not work," Rubio told TIME managing editor Richard Stengel. "And at that point -– very cautious when you say this because I don’t want to come across as some kind of saber rattling person, because I’m not -- but I am in line with what the administration has said, which is ultimately, a military option may be necessary."

Rubio was less hesitant to break from the administration on other issues, such as the president’s  handling of Syria.  Rubio called on the United States to play a more active role in supporting Syrian rebels, saying the country’s reputation is at stake.

“Countries are looking at that as a test case of whether the U.S. is still going to be a significant player in the region or not, and they’re very pragmatic in that region and they’re going to make decisions based on whatever they conclude,” said Rubio. “And if they conclude that the U.S. is on its way out, no longer willing to engage in the Middle East, they’ll make decisions based on that reality.”

Rubio’s stop at the Council of Foreign Relations comes in a week where another speculative vice presidential contender is also traveling overseas. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman traveled to Israel and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney has suffered some criticism from Democrats for a lack of foreign policy experience. Picking a running mate with strong credentials in that area could help neutralize any perceived weaknesses.

But Rubio, who has denied any interest in joining the ticket, made it a point to quickly dismiss the question he got about it today. 

“Vice President Rubio has a good ring to it, doesn’t it?” Stengel asked.

“No,” Rubio dryly replied. “I appreciate you trying to work that in, though.”