“The issue of a military option simply wasn’t raised today,” Mr Straw told the BBC after his meeting in Washington with Condoleezza Rice.

US Vice President Dick Cheney, who has called Iran’s controversial nuclear ambitions one of Washington’s main concerns, had also affirmed that “he backs a diplomatic approach to Iran”, Mr Straw said.

He said the difficulty was to decide how to work with Iran, a country which is already in breach of its international obligations, and how to make sure that its future activities are “entirely for peaceful purposes and (that) there’s no intention, no possibility, that it’s being used for nuclear weapons purposes.”

The British foreign secretary has reportedly produced a hefty dossier to argue London’s case for a “negotiated solution” rather than military action to thwart Tehran’s suspected ambitions to produce nuclear weapons.

The dossier, reports say, calls a peaceful solution led by Britain, France and Germany “in the best interests of Iran and the international community,” while referring to “safeguarding Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology”.

The BBC reported that tensions were running high between London and Washington, staunch allies during the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, over the Iran issue.

Britain, France and Germany have spearheaded efforts to get Iran to halt its sensitive nuclear work, including uranium enrichment, while the United States has advocated taking a hard line against what it sees as deception by the Islamic republic.

The perception that Washington is embarking on a course of confrontation with Iran has grown since The New Yorker magazine reported last week that US commandos have been operating inside Iran since mid-2004, secretly scouting targets for possible air strikes.

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