MUNICH, Germany – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pushed Saturday for unity in the fight against terrorism, telling a meeting of the world's top security officials that "a war has been declared on all of our nations and on our people."
Rumsfeld pushed U.S. allies to increase military spending to defeat the threat of a "global extremist empire" he said terrorists hoped to create.
"The Cold War wasn't won through fate or good luck — freedom prevailed because our free nations showed resolve when retreat would have been easier, showed courage when concession seemed simpler and more attractive," Rumsfeld said.
Speaking before the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program, Rumsfeld accused Tehran of sponsoring terrorism. But he told the conference America stood "with the Iranian people, the women, the young people, who want a peaceful, democratic future."
"The Iranian regime is today the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," he said. "The world does not want, and must work together to avoid, a nuclear Iran."
The U.N. nuclear watchdog reported Iran to the Security Council over suspicions that its nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons.
Iran said immediately following the vote that it would resume uranium enrichment, which can be used for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear activity is solely for producing energy.
Senator John McCain said after Rumsfeld spoke that a military option must be kept open in dealing with Iran should diplomacy fail.
"You cannot remove the military option from the table, but it is a totally undesirable option and one that can only be considered after all other options are attempted," the Arizona Republican said.
European governments have shied away from any talk of military action while diplomatic efforts continue.
"The NATO allies will certainly have to discuss Iran," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said. "But if you ask me, 'Is a military option on the NATO radar screen?' My answer is 'No."'
Opening the second day of the 42nd annual Munich security conference, a gathering that defense experts and policy-makers traditionally use for frank exchanges, Rumsfeld said violent extremism was a danger faced by Europe as much as the United States. He said Islamic militants were on the move and had to be checked.
"They seek to take over governments from North Africa to Southeast Asia and to re-establish a caliphate they hope, one day, will include every continent," he said. "They have designed and distributed a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global extremist empire.
"Today our countries have another choice to make — we could choose to pretend, as some suggest, that the enemy is not at our doorstep; we could choose to believe, as some contend, that the threat is exaggerated," he said. "But ... what if they are wrong?"
This year's conference is focused on the trans-Atlantic relationship between the U.S. and Europe.
Rumsfeld pointed out that the U.S. spends 3.7 percent of its gross domestic product on national defense, while 19 of the 25 other NATO nations spend less than 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
Germany, which spends 1.4 percent of its GDP on defense, and others have been under pressure to step up their funding.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country was willing to be more active on the international stage, but warned that budget restraints would continue to limit defense spending.
She pushed Russia and China to join Germany and the U.S. in pushing Tehran back to negotiations, and said Germany's Nazi past meant it could never tolerate derogatory comments about Israel and the Holocaust by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"A president that questions Israel's right to exist, a president that denies the Holocaust cannot think that Germany has even the slightest degree of tolerance," she said to applause. "We have learned from our history."
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie backed Rumsfeld's call for more defense spending, calling it "indispensable."