updated 4/2/2006 7:51:47 PM ET 2006-04-02T23:51:47

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview broadcast Sunday that the United States is committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

In an interview with the ITV television channel recorded in Liverpool on Saturday, Rice acknowledged concerns that the standoff between the U.N. Security Council and Iran over its nuclear program could lead to the U.S. taking pre-emptive military action.

But she said: “Iran is not Iraq. I know that’s what’s on people’s minds. The circumstances are different,” Rice said.

“I just want to be very clear, Iran is not Iraq. However, the president of the United States doesn’t take his options off the table. We are committed to a diplomatic course because we believe that a diplomatic course can work,” she said.

Straw: Military force inconceivable
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who met with Rice in England before traveling with her to Iraq, has said it is inconceivable that military action would be taken against Iran.

However, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that Britain’s government and military chiefs plan to hold secret talks Monday to discuss contingency plans about possible military strikes against Iran.

The paper quoted an unidentified senior Foreign Office official as saying the military wants such talks because the crisis could lead to a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites — though not an invasion — and that the consequences of such an attack must be weighed by Britain and its interests in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which border Iran.

The meeting would involve officials from Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office, Straw’s office and several military chiefs, the paper said.

Asked about the report, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in a statement: “There is no such meeting between defense, the Foreign Office and other officials taking place. There will be no briefing of the prime minister or the Cabinet in this regard.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We often have such meetings of foreign policy issues, but we certainly won’t be discussing possible military action against Iran because it’s not something we are talking about at the moment.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity per government policy.

Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but America and its European allies believe Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. They have proposed a Security Council statement spelling out a number of demands, including that Iran stop enriching uranium, which can be used to make a nuclear bomb.

Russia in a tight spot
Russia and China have demanded that any statement simply reinforce the primacy of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in confronting Iran.

Straw told ITV that Russia is in a difficult situation over the crisis.

“Russia is anxious about Iran. It’s on its borders. They’ve got thousands of people working there. They are worried about the possibility of the Iranians stirring up trouble for them,” Straw said. “But they also share our high suspicions that Iran may be using its civil nuclear capability to develop a nuclear weapon, and they do not want that.”

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