Vice President Joseph R. Biden assured European leaders Saturday that the U.S. is not pursuing a policy of “containment” toward Iran, two days after U.S. Defense secretary-nominee Chuck Hagel mistakenly characterized the Obama administration’s policy.

“As President Obama has made clear to Iranian leaders, our policy is not containment — it is not containment,” Mr. Biden said at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany. “It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

During his confirmation hearing Thursday, Mr. Hagel told the Senate Armed Services committee that the administration had a policy of “containment” toward the Iranian regime. After an aide slipped him a note minutes later, Mr. Hagel corrected himself and said, “We don’t have a position on containment.”