WASHINGTON - President Bush said Friday the United States does not intend to attack Iran to crush its suspected nuclear weapons project, and he expressed hopes that a European diplomatic initiative would persuade Tehran to abandon any such program.
In an interview with European journalists at the White House, Bush was asked about an opinion poll showing that 70 percent of Germans believe the United States is planning military action against Iran.
"I hear all these rumors about military attacks, and it's just not the truth," said Bush, who leaves Sunday for Europe to mend fences with allies. "We want diplomacy to work."
Bush said he supports European nations' efforts to persuade Iran to scrap its uranium enrichment program in exchange for technological, financial and political support. But he did not address U.S. reservations about Europe's approach.
"I believe diplomacy can work so long as the Iranians don't divide Europe and the United States," Bush said. "There's a lot more diplomacy to be done."
Bush said he applauds efforts by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other leaders for sending a clear message to Iran.
"They know what they need to do," Bush said of Iran. "And so what they are trying to do is kind of wiggle out."
He said Iranians think they don't have to do anything because the Americans are not involved.
"Well, America is involved," Bush said. "We're in close consultation with our friends."
Bush also said Iran should stop supporting Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon because this could threaten the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Iran is on record as firmly opposed to any peace process that might legitimatize Israel's presence as a Jewish state in the Middle East.
The president also said that he and his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, should set their differences aside to focus on the Middle East, Lebanon and other issues.