The United States insisted on Monday that it remains committed to diplomacy with Iran although President George W. Bush and his deputy warned the Islamic republic of its nuclear activities.
"I wouldn't call it stepping up the rhetoric," White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters after Bush said last week that a nuclear-equipped Iran evoked the threat of "World War III," and Vice President Dick Cheney warned of "serious consequences" for Iran.
"In fact what the vice president said was a very clear review of the situation in the Middle East," Fratto said, adding that Bush, Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates "have all been incredibly clear and consistent in our message on Iran."
At a White House press conference held last Wednesday, Bush said that he had told world leaders "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (the Iranians) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Sunday, Cheney said that Iran will face "serious consequences" if it continues to enrich uranium, a key substance for the making of nuclear weapons.
"The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences," he said, stressing "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
Washington accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. While threatening to keep all options including military resort, the White House has said time and again that it is focusing on diplomatic means to try to resolve Iran's nuclear issue.
Iran, which always denies U.S. charges, insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.