LONDON - The United States would like to see a different kind of regime in Iran, which will move away from "pursuing an aggressive agenda based on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction", Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser to US President George W. Bush, told Saturday's Financial Times.
But Rice's statement of US ambitions in an interview with the paper fell short of the desire for regime change in Tehran, the London-based business daily said.
The FT said, however, that Rice had signalled that Washington was determined to address an Iranian threat, describing it in similar terms to that formerly posed by Saddam Hussein's toppled regime in Iraq.
Rice told the paper that the White House wanted to see an elected government in Tehran which meets the demands of the Iranian people for "a regime which protects the rights of women, which is forward looking and modern."
Washington has stepped up its criticism of Tehran's Islamic regime in recent days and US media reports have said the White House is mulling its own campaign to undermine Iran's clerical theocracy.
However Bush dismissed reports of a planned attack on Iran as "idle speculation" in a Russian television interview broadcast late Friday.
"We've had all kinds of reports that we're going to use force in Syria and now some in the left I guess are saying force in Iran, force here and force there," he told Russia's state-run Rossiya channel.
"You know, this is pure speculation and we used force in Iraq after a long, long period of diplomacy. People love to speculate about US intentions and our military and I'm just telling you it's idle speculation," Bush added.
The US-led coalition in Iraq turned up the pressure on neighbouring Iran on Friday with a warning against Islamist hardliners it said were pouring in to destabilise the country.
The announcement on coalition radio in Baghdad came on the heels of charges by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday that Tehran was shipping elite troops across the border into Iraq.