The Bush administration says it has not been asked by European negotiators to provide security guarantees to Iran. The dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions is likely to play a prominent role later this week, when President Bush meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
There have been media reports in recent days that European negotiators believe security assurances from the United States might help convince Iran to curb its nuclear program.
The United States has made no secret of the fact it is cool to the idea. During an
appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said no such request has been made.
"Let me set the record straight," she said. "We have not been asked to provide security assurances to Iran."
Rice said the United States is consulting with diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany on a package of steps designed to put pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment activities.
Iran says its nuclear program is designed to produce electricity. But the United States and its allies maintain, what Iran really wants to do is develop a nuclear bomb.
Rice stressed Iran's nuclear activities must be seen in the context of its threats against Israel and its support for terrorism. She called Iran a troublemaker in the international community.
"It is obvious that, in addition to the nuclear issue, we have other issues with Iran. We have a state in Iran that is devoted to the destruction of Israel," she said.
The nature of the Iranian threat to Israel is sure to be a topic of discussion Tuesday when President Bush meets at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
In an interview aired on CNN's Late Edition program, the Israeli leader said Iran is only months away from acquiring the technological knowledge needed to develop nuclear arms.
"This technological threshold is nearer than we anticipated before," said Mr. Olmert. "This is because they are already engaged very seriously in enrichment."
Mr. Olmert was asked if Israel might strike a suspected nuclear facility in Iran, much as it did in Iraq in 1981. He said the two situations cannot be compared, that the international community is far more aware of the danger posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions, and far more determined to find a solution.
"Thank God, now it is widely recognized by the international community, and, therefore, Israel doesn't have to act on its own," he said.
The prospects for peace with the Palestinians will also figure high in the White House talks. This is Ehud Olmert's first trip to Washington as Israel's head of government, and the first meeting between President Bush and an Israeli leader since Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian parliament.
Mr. Olmert told CNN that he hopes Hamas will one day recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce terrorism, but he added he believes the chance of that ever happening is very low.