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Rice: Attack on Iran 'not on agenda'

Secretary begins European trip with talks with Tony Blair

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In his State of the Union address, President Bush calls Iran the "world's primary state sponsor of terror."
Will the trans-Atlantic trip by a new U.S. secretary of state be the start of better relations between the U.S. and Europe?
Condoleezza Rice
United States

LONDON, England (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says 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," Rice told a news conference Friday after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

"The question is simply not on the agenda at this point," said Rice, in reply to a question after having listed U.S. criticisms of Iranian policy.

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."

Rice had been at No. 10 Downing Street for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- the first in a series of meetings with European and Middle East leaders.

Later on Friday, Rice traveled to Germany for talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

She told a news conference in Berlin that the United States would work with European countries in their efforts to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Britain, France and Germany have been holding talks with Tehran in an attempt to have Iran's uranium enrichment program permanently frozen.

"The Iranians need to be in compliance with their international obligations, and we have very good cooperation and discussions with our three European colleagues on a solid message to the Iranians that that is a necessity," Rice told reporters following her meeting with Schroeder.

On her way to London, Rice signaled that the Bush administration was adopting a harder line towards Iran -- but she has stopped short of explicitly calling for regime change.

"The Iranian people should have a chance to determine their own future," Rice told reporters while en route. (Full story)

In London, Rice was greeted outside Blair's official residence by Straw. Once inside, she was welcomed by the prime minister before they went behind closed doors.

"We will be discussing Iraq, no doubt, and the Middle East and various other issues and I'm sure it will be an excellent and constructive meeting, as ever," Blair said.

For Rice, it is her first trip abroad since taking over as secretary of state.

"We have a lot of work to do and I want to thank you for your leadership and the friendship of Great Britain and the British people as we try and spread freedom and democracy through the world, as we work to support the Iraqi people in their quest and most especially as you and the president have committed as we try to bring to the Israelis and the Palestinians the chance for a permanent peace," she told Blair.

The unspoken message of the trip is the desire the turn a new page in the trans-Atlantic relationship, after years of tension and animosity following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Rice's arrival in London comes after several days of unusually upbeat news out of Iraq, following Sunday's nationwide elections for a transitional national assembly.

During the flight to London Thursday, Rice told reporters one of the main objectives of her trip will be to discuss with European allies how to expand "freedom and liberties" to places where they have not existed before, citing as examples recent elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Ukraine.

In France Tuesday, Rice plans to deliver a major policy speech focusing on expanding democracy around the world.

During her week-long swing through Europe and the Middle East, Rice will also focus on laying the groundwork for the president's trip later this month.

Rice will also make stops in Warsaw, Ankara, Rome, Brussels and Luxembourg. She will also travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories in the hopes of re-invigorating the derailed peace process.

During her visit, the secretary expects to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Those meetings will come on the eve of a summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders hosted by Egypt, the highest level meeting between the two sides since the start of the Palestinian intifada in the fall of 2000.

Before arriving in London, as a memento of her maiden voyage as secretary of state, Rice gave each member of the traveling press corps on board her plane a pocket world atlas because, she said, "We're going to travel a lot, and I wouldn't want anyone to feel lost."

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