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U.S. Mulling Options to Deter Iran, N. Korea

Iran (search) will continue to feel pressure to give up its nuclear ambitions but President Bush said Monday that diplomacy is also an option with the Islamic regime in Tehran.

"Iran must comply with the demands of the free world and that's where we sit right now," Bush said at an "Ask the President" campaign event in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Annandale, Va. "My attitude is that we've got to keep pressure on the government, and help others keep pressure on the government — so there's going to be universal condemnation of illegal weapons activities."

Bush stressed U.S. efforts to work with other nations to make sure the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency asks Iran "hard questions" about its weapons activities. "Foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain have gone in as a group to send a message on behalf of the free world," he said.

On Sunday, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said that the president is weighing "all tools available," including covert action, to stop Iran and North Korea (search) from getting nuclear weapons. 

Appearing on Sunday morning's news show circuit, Rice denied that diplomatic efforts are failing, but said the president has not taken any option off the table in the effort to keep Iran and North Korea from going nuclear. 

"We cannot allow the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon. The international community has got to find a way to come together and to make certain that that does not happen," Rice told one news show.

She said the world is finally "worried and suspicious" about Iran's intentions and she expects a strong statement within the next month from the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) saying "that Iran will either be isolated, or it will submit to the will of the international community." That could possibly include submitting to inspections of nuclear facilities or exposing itself to sanctions.

Iran and North Korea, who along with the recently liberated Iraq make up the "axis of evil" the president defined in his 2003 State of the Union address, are both believed to be moving ahead unabashed in their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran recently announced that it is restarting its production of centrifuges needed to produce highly enriched uranium. The oil-producing nation claims its goal is to generate nuclear power, not a bomb.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on Monday that the international community has no reason to be suspicious about its nuclear ambitions, despite U.S. allegations.

"Iran has not violated any of its commitments to international treaties in its nuclear program," Kharrazi was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Last week, Kharrazi said that the centrifuge is not being used to enrich uranium, but his nation has continued manufacturing the centrifuges (search) to retaliate against the West for failing to convince the IAEA to rest its case that Iran was violating nuclear nonproliferation rules. Britain, Germany and France have not asked the IAEA to stop the investigation.

"I think we've finally now got the world community to a place, and the International Atomic Energy Agency to a place, that it is worried and suspicious of the Iranian activities," she said. "Iran is facing for the first time real resistance to trying to take these steps."

Reports Sunday also quoted new classified intelligence reports that North Korea is now likely to have the ability to test a nuclear weapon (search). The reports say the whereabouts of North Korea's stockpile of more than 8,000 nuclear fuel rods has been a mystery since 2003.

Rice said the United States was the first to sound the alarm on those countries' nuclear weapons pursuits and will use "many means to try to disrupt Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions."

Senior intelligence and nuclear experts were quoted in reports on Sunday saying that the Bush administration is weighing covert action because the two nations have both failed to stop or slow their nuclear programs despite ongoing diplomatic efforts by the United States, Europe and North Korea's Asian neighbors. 

Rice said the new international attitude toward Iran's nuclear program shows that America's persistence in warning about Tehran's ambitions is finally starting to pay off. While the international community is paying attention to the progress Iran is making, she did not indicate whether the United States would act alone to end Iran's nuclear program if the administration does not win international support. 

"The United States was the first to say that Iran was a threat in this way, to try and convince the international community that Iran was trying, under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, to actually bring about a nuclear weapons program," Rice said on a cable news show.

In June, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton told Congress that Iran was jabbing "a thumb in the eye of the international community" by refusing to cooperate with inspections. 

FOX News' Julie Kirtz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.