President Bush on Thursday accused Iran of flouting international accords by secretly trying to make nuclear weapons. "The guilty party is Iran," Bush said on a visit to CIA headquarters.
"They are the ones who are not living up to international accords," the president said. "They are the people that the whole world is saying, 'Don't develop a nuclear weapon.'"
Bush said the Europeans and Russian President Vladimir Putin (search) "feel the same way." Hinting he would support the allies in offering commercial concessions to Iran to end the program, Bush said, "We're looking at ways to help move the process forward."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search), at a news conference, said, "Thus far, the Iranians have shown no indication that they are taking the deal."
Bush conferred briefly with Rice in the Oval Office on Wednesday, and they held a longer meeting there Thursday.
After sharp differences with France, Germany and Russia on going to war with Iraq two years ago, Bush appeared to be relishing unity on Iran and also on trying to liberate Lebanon from Syrian control.
"The message is loud and clear from the United States and France, and many other nations, that Syria must withdraw not only her troops but her secret service forces out of Lebanon now," Bush said.
Even as Bush launched his latest verbal attack on Iran, his administration was attempting to find ways to signal support for Europe's proposal to offer Iran some economic incentives in exchange for an agreement to give up its nuclear ambitions.
While Bush has said he does not want to reward Iran for misbehavior, he was searching for a way to not block European offers — including possible eventual Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization (search) — if the overtures helped end Iran's nuclear-fuel enriching activities, administration officials said.
At the State Department, after talks with Rice, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller confirmed his nation's support for the Bush administration on Iran and other fronts.
"We have the same aim that, of course, we do not have nuclear weapons in Iran, that Iran is respecting human rights, and we are having discussions with Iran to that effect," the foreign minister said.
Rice, meanwhile, called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) to investigate reports Iran was using reinforced materials and tunneling deep underground to store nuclear components.
Rice said she hoped Iran understood that it must cooperate.
"The world is coming to a united position about Iran, that Iran must not be able to get a nuclear weapon, that there are legitimate concerns about nuclear activities in Iran," Rice said.
"The IAEA deserves and, indeed, has the right to investigate, and investigate thoroughly with full Iranian cooperation, these activities which are, indeed, suspicious," she said.
A decision by Bush to support the Europeans in offering Iran such commercial benefits as spare parts for civilian aircraft and a chance to join the World Trade Organization would represent a U.S. policy shift.
In the past, the administration has ruled out rewards to Iran to halt its nuclear program.
Rice, taking a tough stand on Syria's control of neighboring Lebanon, dismissed reports via Saudi Arabia that Syria may be willing to reduce its troops in Lebanon to 3,000.
"Free of foreign interference means exactly that," Rice said, insisting Syria comply with a U.N. resolution that it withdraw all its troops and security personnel from the Arab country.
Lebanese demonstrators are expressing a a desire to be free of Syrian interference, Rice said. "Democracy and the desire to be free is as natural as breathing," she said.
The U.S. strategy on Syria, meanwhile, was endorsed by Theodore Kattouf, who was U.S. ambassador to Syria until he retired in 2003.
"The administration has played its hand very well," Kattouf said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. But, he said, if the administration "goes too far, things could go wrong."
"There could be a coup from within, not a regime change," Kattouf said of the impact of U.S. pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government.