WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that President Bush was "not going to take any option off the table" to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weaponry, and rejected the notion of offering security guarantees if Tehran would halt its uranium enrichment program.
"Iran is a troublemaker in the international system, a central banker of terrorism. Security assurances are not on the table," Rice said on "Fox News Sunday," one of two appearances on Sunday news shows in which she discussed the Iran situation.
For now, she said, the U.S. would continue to work within the United Nations Security Council to make sure Iran's nuclear program was limited to the development of electricity for civilian use.
"The president's not going to take any option off the table -- but we believe that this is something that can be resolved diplomatically," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press." She added: "We have many steps yet to take, and Iran ... can really not stand the kind of international isolation that could be brought upon it if [its leaders] don't find a way to change course."
For its part, the Iranian government said Sunday that it would not trust any offer of security guarantees, the Reuters news agency reported.
Three European nations -- France, Germany and Britain -- are attempting to put together a package that could include a light-water reactor and security assurances for Tehran if the government gives up its nuclear ambitions.
Reuters reported that Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi had said at a news conference that there were no incentives that would encourage Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment program. The government says the program is only for civilian power purposes.
On "Fox News Sunday," Rice said that the Europeans had not sought security guarantees from the United States, and did not say what Washington would do if it were asked to provide them.
"What we're talking about is a package that will make clear to Iran that there are choices to be made," she said. "Either that there will be sanctions and actions taken against Iran by the international community or there's a way for them to meet their civil nuclear concerns."
Rice termed "high talk" the Iranian president's ridiculing of possible U.N.-imposed sanctions. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that no Security Council resolution "could make Iran give up its nuclear program."
The Iranians, Rice noted, have at the same time been working to forestall any sanctions.
"I assume that the Iranian president is ... simply posturing on this," Rice said, "because I think the Iranians know how devastating [U.N. sanctions] could be."
Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition" in advance of his visit to the White House this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Iran was "very close" to gaining the ability to enrich uranium for use in a nuclear bomb.
"The technological threshold is very close. It can be measured in months rather than years," he said, although he did not cite a basis for his assertion.
Olmert pointed out that Ahmadinejad has said that Israel should be wiped from the map of the world.
"When I hear a president of a nation openly and officially declaring, on every possible network in the world, that he intends to wipe out another nation -- my nation -- and at the same time, he's working hard to possess nuclear weapons, I have all the legitimacy to be concerned and to motivate other nations to take the necessary measures to stop him," Olmert said.
Bush's handling of Iran came under brief but pointed criticism Sunday from Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who serves on both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees. Hagel said the administration must engage directly with Tehran while continuing to seek support within the United Nations.
"This is too important to leave on the outside, to let it just drift, and that's what we're doing," said Hagel, who led an Army infantry squad in Vietnam. "We're allowing this to drift. And when we're talking about nuclear proliferation, you don't get many second chances here. The margins of error just aren't there. It's a hair-trigger business."
Appearing on CNN, Hagel also noted that the United States needed to continue to work with its allies.
"But at the core of this is going to be a direct U.S.-Iranian engagement," he said, "and I hope the administration is either planning for that now or starting to work that out."
The Bush administration's missteps in launching the war with Iraq have also emerged as a factor in the speculation over whether the U.S. can deal effectively with Iran.
Referring to the administration's now-discredited claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who serves with Hagel on the intelligence committee, said on CNN:
"We can't afford to see intelligence botched on Iran the way we saw it botched on Iraq."