WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice bumps into the foreign minister of Iran, she will be polite but firm about U.S. resolve to convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, President George W. Bush said on Monday.
Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Rice could encounter each other at a conference in Egypt this week on stabilizing Iraq. Their attendance at the same forum has raised speculation about bilateral talks.
“Should the foreign minister of Iran bump into Condi Rice, Condi won’t be rude; she’s not a rude person. I‘m sure she’ll be polite,” Bush said at a news conference after meeting with European Union leaders.
“She’ll also be firm in reminding the representative of the Iranian government that there’s a better way forward for the Iranian people than isolation,” Bush said.
The meeting at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh will bring together Iraq’s neighbors and members of the Group of Eight nations and the European Union.
The United States has accused Iran of helping to destabilize Iraq by allowing arms and foreign fighters to cross its border. Tehran denies the charge.
The United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its program is for generating electricity.
“I happen to believe a significant threat to world peace today and in the future is the Iranian threat if they were to end up with a nuclear weapon,” Bush said. “Today is the wrong word -- in the future -- they don’t have a weapon today.”
He said if Iran wanted a dialogue, it should give up its nuclear enrichment activities.
“If in fact there is a conversation, it’ll be one that says if the Iranian government wants to have a serious conversation with the United States and others, they ought to give up their enrichment program in a verifiable fashion and we will sit down at the table with them along with our European partners and Russia as well, that’s what she’ll tell them,” Bush said.