Vice President Cheney says Washington is moving to support French, German, and British efforts to resolve the dispute diplomatically, in hopes that Iran will agree to permanently stop enriching uranium, which could be used in a nuclear-weapons program.
Last November, the diplomats from the three European countries reached an agreement with Iran to suspend all uranium-enrichment activities, in return for talks on trade, security, and technology.
Interviewed on the television show Fox News, Vice President Cheney says he does not know if that diplomacy will succeed.
"It all turns on this question of whether or not they should be enriching uranium," he said. "They claim they are doing it only for peaceful purposes, although there is some evidence to suggest that they have military aspirations and are trying to acquire nuclear weapons, as well."
During talks with European leaders this past week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington is not contemplating military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons because there are plenty of diplomatic means still available.
But she said President Bush will not take any options off the table, particularly with regard to nuclear issues.
The head of Iran's national security council told the Reuters news agency Sunday, there is nothing Western governments can offer to persuade Iran to end its uranium-enrichment program, and talks with the Europeans should focus on eliciting Iranian guarantees that it will not divert uranium enrichment to a military program. Hassan Rhohani also warned that Iran would retaliate, and increase its push to master nuclear technology, if the United States or Israel attacks its nuclear facilities.
Vice President Cheney Sunday said Iran is a concern for the United States because, if the country's leaders continue on the course they are on, he says, Tehran is a potential source of instability in the region.
"It is a regime, obviously, that we have got major problems with, not only because of their search for nuclear weapons. There is also the fact that they have been a prime state sponsor of terror over the years, prime movers behind Hezbollah. So, there are a lot of reasons why the Iranians are on the list of problem states," explained Mr. Cheney.
The vice president says Iran should, in his words, do the right thing, and agree to transparent inspections of its nuclear facilities to reassure the rest of the world that it is not trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
If the diplomatic process breaks down, Mr. Cheney says, the next step would be to go back to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and, ultimately, refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.