Rice says attack on Iran 'not on agenda'

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The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in London today that an attack on Iran over its nuclear program is "not on the agenda at this point."

"We have many diplomatic tools still at our disposal and we intend to pursue them fully," she said after a meeting with the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Asked if a military attack was possible, Ms Rice said: "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point."

However, she warned that Iran must not "use the cover" of civilian nuclear power development "to sustain a program that can lead to a nuclear weapon".

Ms Rice held wide-ranging talks with the Prime Minister and Mr Straw which took in the issue of Iraq as well as the wider conflict in the Middle East and how to deal with Iran's feared nuclear plans.

Mr Straw said that the success of Iraq's elections should help heal world divisions over the war. Last weekend's poll showed universal support for the values of freedom and democracy.

Mr Straw said: "As coalition partners we have shared the joy of the Iraqi people and their courageous exercise in democracy last weekend. The success of the Iraqi elections were celebrated, not just by the coalition and the Iraqi people, but by those too who questioned the military action which the US, UK and other partners took.

"I think we now have an opportunity to put the divisions behind us and work with a united international community to support a successful constitutional process.

"The Iraqi elections show how widely shared is the belief in freedom and democracy - a key theme of President Bush."

The Foreign Secretary said the elections in the Ukraine and Afghanistan sent the same message.

Ms Rice is on a week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East following her appointment to succeed Colin Powell.

The Bush administration is thought to be keen to build bridges with European allies after disagreements over Iraq.

One of Ms Rice's first comments after being appointed was that "the time for diplomacy is now".

Mr Straw said her trip was a "formidable programme of diplomacy". He said: "There is a great deal of work certainly to be done."

Although Britain and the US are united over Iraq, there are differences over how to deal with Iran. Britain favours a diplomatic approach, with the Bush administration being more hardline.

The President this week warned Tehran it must give up its uranium enrichment programme.