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Intelligence report contradicts Bush on Iran nuclear program

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071203/ts_nm/iran_usa_dc Report contradicts Bush on Iran nuclear program By Matt Spetalnick 15 minutes ago WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071203/ts_nm/iran_usa_dc

      Report contradicts Bush on Iran nuclear program

      By Matt Spetalnick 15 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new U.S. intelligence report
      says Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003
      and it remains on hold, contradicting the Bush
      administration's earlier assertion that Tehran was
      intent on developing a bomb.

      The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released on
      Monday could undermine U.S. efforts to convince other
      world powers to agree on a third package of U.N.
      sanctions against Iran for defying demands to halt
      uranium enrichment activities.

      Tensions have escalated in recent months as Washington
      has ratcheted up the rhetoric against Tehran, with
      U.S. President George W. Bush insisting in October
      that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War
      Three.

      But in a finding likely to surprise U.S. friends and
      foes alike, the latest NIE concluded: "We do not know
      whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear
      weapons."

      That marked a sharp contrast to an intelligence report
      two years ago that stated Iran was "determined to
      develop nuclear weapons."

      But the new assessment found Iran was continuing to
      develop technical means that could be used to build a
      bomb and it would likely be capable of producing
      enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon "sometime
      during the 2010-2015 time-frame."

      The shift in the intelligence community's thinking on
      Iran comes five years after a flawed NIE concluded
      neighboring Iraq was developing weapons of mass
      destruction -- a report that helped pave the way for
      the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

      No nuclear, chemical or biological weapons were ever
      found in Iraq and intelligence agencies since have
      been more cautious about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

      Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who have
      repeatedly accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons,
      were briefed on the new NIE last Wednesday.

      Washington, which insists it wants to solve the Iran
      problem diplomatically while leaving military options
      "on the table," is pushing for tougher U.N. sanctions
      against Tehran but faces resistance from China and
      Russia.

      Iran insists it wants nuclear technology only for
      civilian purposes, such as electricity generation.

      The nuclear standoff has become a major issue in the
      2008 U.S. presidential campaign, with candidates
      weighing in on the prospects for military action
      against Iran.

      U.S. STILL SEES IRANIAN "RISK"

      Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among senior
      Democrats who had requested the updated report on
      Iran, said the assessment challenged some of the
      administration's "alarming rhetoric about the threat
      posed by Iran."

      He and other critics had accused Bush trying to rush
      the country into war again based on faulty
      intelligence.

      Bush's national security adviser said that on balance
      the report was "good news," insisting it showed Tehran
      was susceptible to international pressure but that the
      risk of it acquiring nuclear weapons "remains a very
      serious problem."

      But he added: "The international community has to
      understand that if we want to avoid a situation where
      we either have to accept Iran on a road to a nuclear
      weapon ... or the possibility of having to use force
      to stop it with all the connotations of World War III,
      then we need to step up the diplomacy, step up the
      pressure."

      Administration officials denied the new NIE had
      exposed a serious intelligence lapse but could not
      explain how agencies failed to detect for four years
      that Iran's nuclear weapons program had been halted.

      Intelligence officials said the suspension involved
      design and engineering for a bomb and covert
      uranium-conversion work.

      A key NIE finding was that: "Tehran's decision to halt
      its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less
      determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have
      been judging since 2005."

      Still, the report said: "We also assess with
      moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum
      is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons."
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