With Iran stepping up its nuclear program, a top White House aide said yesterday the world finally is "worried and suspicious" over the Iranians' intentions and is determined not to let Tehran produce a nuclear weapon.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice also said the Bush administration sees a new international willingness to act against Iran's nuclear program. She credited the changed attitude to the Americans' insistence that Iran's effort put the world in peril.
She would not say whether the United States would act alone to end the program if the administration could not win international support.
Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, announced a week ago that his country had resumed building nuclear centrifuges. He said Iran was retaliating for the West's failure to force the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to close its file on possible Iranian violations of nuclear nonproliferation rules.
Kharrazi said Iran was not resuming enrichment of uranium, which requires a centrifuge. But, he said, Iran had restarted manufacturing the device because Britain, Germany and France had not stopped the investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"The United States was the first to say that Iran was a threat in this way, to try and convince the international community that Iran was trying, under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, to actually bring about a nuclear weapons program," Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"I think we've finally now got the world community to a place, and the International Atomic Energy Agency to a place, that it is worried and suspicious of the Iranian activities," she said. "Iran is facing for the first time real resistance to trying to take these steps."
President Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union address, included Iran with North Korea and Iraq in an "axis of evil" dedicated to developing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
Since then, North Korea has publicly resumed its nuclear development program. In Iraq, invading U.S.-led forces have found no such programs since President Saddam Hussein was deposed.
Iran announced in June that it would resume its centrifuge program. Afterward, the U.S. official whose job is to slow the global atomic arms race, Under Secretary of State John R. Bolton, told Congress that Iran was jabbing "a thumb in the eye of the international community."
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Rice reasserted that the world has fallen in line on Iran and said she expects next month to get a strong statement from the IAEA "that Iran will either be isolated, or it will submit to the will of the international community."
She also said: "We cannot allow the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon. The international community has got to find a way to come together and to make certain that that does not happen."