President Bush is weighing a number of ideas put forward by European leaders for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions. The suggestions were made during the president's trip last week to Belgium, Germany and Slovakia.
Throughout his trip, the president stressed that the United States and Europe share a common goal: to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
In the past, they differed on the best way to reach that end, with the Europeans talking about incentives to Tehran, and the Americans raising the possibility of sanctions.
Now, there are hints the White House may be willing to give the European approach a chance.
Spokesman Scott McClellan says the European ideas are getting a close look. "The president is thinking through some of the ideas that were mentioned last week and thinking about what the next steps are for how we move forward to accomplish that shared goal," he said.
Mr. McClellan told reporters that President Bush has been discussing the European suggestions with his top foreign policy advisers. The White House spokesman would not provide details, except to say some of these ideas have been in existence for some time.
He strongly denied that the United States is about to announce an abrupt change of course, emphasizing instead the need to give diplomacy a chance. "We have always supported the efforts of our European friends to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. We want to see them succeed in those efforts," he said.
The White House spokesman made clear the United States is not about to become an active partner in the negotiations with Iran and will continue to leave the process in the hands of Germany, France and Britain. However, he did imply that America may play a more active role on the sidelines.
Iran has said that its nuclear program is designed for civilian use only. But the United States and others have questioned why an oil-rich nation would need nuclear power.
The first atomic reactor in Iran is expected to start up next year. Russia signed an agreement with Tehran Sunday to supply nuclear fuel. When asked about the deal, Scott McClellan said the Bush administration is waiting for more information from Moscow. He emphasized that under terms of the agreement, all spent nuclear fuel will be sent back to Russia.