WASHINGTON – President Bush urged the world on Monday to isolate Iran until it gives up its ambitions to pursue a nuclear weapons program.
"If they continue to move forward with the program, there has to be a consequence," Bush said in response to concerns Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised during his visit to the White House on Monday.
"I think it's very important for the world to unite with one common voice, to say to the Iranians that, 'if you choose to continue forward, you'll be isolated,'" Bush said in the Oval Office following an hour-long meeting with Olmert.
Iran's nuclear ambitions pose a risk beyond Israel and the Middle East, Bush said, adding that they "are not in the world's interest."
"Let's work in concert to convince the government that it's not just the Israeli voices speaking or the United States voices speaking, but there's a lot of other voices saying the exact same thing, and present them with a choice," Bush said.
Iran maintains that its nuclear ambitions are directed at producing nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons.
Olmert said his government in principle was willing to negotiate with Syria. But Syria's sponsorship of Hamas — the militant group that has attacked Israel and dominates the Palestinian government — and its activities in Lebanon prevents Israel from talking to Damascus right now, Olmert said.
Bush, also not ruling out U.S. talks with Syria, said Syria has to "get out of Lebanon."
In focusing on his concerns with Iran, Olmert offered assurances he was not looking for a confrontation with Iran.
"I am not looking for wars," he declared in advance of his meeting with the American president.
"This is not an issue of Israel only," Olmert said of Iran's nuclear efforts. "This is a moral issue of the whole world."
The meeting was the second Olmert had with Bush since the prime minister took over for the ailing Ariel Sharon. Palestinian gestures toward peacemaking with Israel was also a key topic on their agenda.
Tehran's goal is to "ultimately wipe Israel off the map," Olmert said on NBC's "Today" show. "The whole world has to join forces in order to stop it. This is a problem of every country. I know that President Bush is fully aware of that."
Olmert also arrived with expectations that he could make small-scale moves on the Palestinian front, including the possibility of offering humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
On Sunday, the Palestinian foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar of the ruling Hamas group, accepted an Arab proposal for a peace conference with Israel, diplomats said. The endorsement marks the first time Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence against the Jewish state, has indicated it would consider making amends with Israel.
The White House reacted positively to what it called "some activity on the Hamas side."
"Both sides are working on it, and we are encouraged," spokesman Tony Snow said.
He told reporters that when it comes to peacemaking, however, "nobody ever said it was simple, without bumps."
Olmert had dinner Sunday evening with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government or the U.S. State Department on the meeting.
Israel is worried by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated calls to destroy Israel and — like the United States — does not believe Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is intended solely to produce energy. Israel accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Olmert said in the NBC interview that he had no objection to the U.S. negotiating with Iran on the nuclear issue to achieve a peaceful compromise. "Every compromise that will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear capability which would be acceptable to President Bush will be acceptable to me. I'm not looking for wars. I'm not looking for confrontations. I'm looking for the outcome."
While the U.S. has led international efforts to curb the Iranian nuclear program, Israelis are worried American policy might soften following the Democratic Party's victory in U.S. congressional elections last week.
The fear is that with American public opinion turning against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bush, a Republican, would be less likely to take decisive military or diplomatic action against Iran.
FOX News' Greg Kelly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.