President Bush said Monday the United States is exploring whether Iran (search) had any role in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a scenario discounted by the CIA (search).

"We're digging into the facts to see if there was one," Bush said in an Oval Office photo opportunity. Bush noted that acting CIA Director John McLaughlin has said that there was no direct connection between Iran and Sept. 11.

"We will continue to look and see if the Iranians were involved," Bush said. "I have long expressed my concerns about Iran. After all it's a totalitarian society where people are not allowed to exercise their rights as human beings."

"As to direct connections with Sept. 11, we're digging into the facts to determine if there was one," said the president, who has branded Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and prewar Iraq (search) when it was ruled by Saddam Hussein.

Bush accused Iran of harboring Al Qaeda leadership, seeking a nuclear weapons program and financing terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah (search).

McLaughlin said on Sunday that the CIA has known for some time that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers were able to pass through Iran. But he said there is no evidence the government in Tehran supported this. Nothing suggests an official connection between Iran and the 2001 hijackings, he said.