Wednesday, December 5, 2007 (Tehran)
A new US intelligence review concluding Iran stopped developing an atomic weapons program in 2003 is a ”declaration of victory” for Iran’s nuclear programme, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.
Ahmadinejad was referring to a US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran released on Monday that concluded Iran had stopped its weapons program in late 2003 and shown no signs since of resuming it.
The Iranian President, on a visit to the western province of Ilam, attracted celebratory whistles from a crowd of thousands when he described the report as a ”final shot” to those who have ”spread lies” about Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iran has touted the new US intelligence report as vindication of its claims that its nuclear programme is peaceful and Iranian officials insist that Washington should take a less hawkish stance and drop attempts to impose new sanctions in light of the report’s surprise conclusions that Tehran had halted its weapons program four years ago.
US President George W. Bush defended his approach on Tuesday, saying Iran was still dangerous and must be squeezed by international pressure despite the blockbuster intelligence finding.
The US acknowledgment about faulty intelligence about Iran recalled the erroneous US conclusion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, a belief that was a factor in Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.
No such weapons were ever found in Iraq.
The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a claim denied by Iran, which says its nuclear program aims only to generate electricity.
Iran has rejected two UN Security Council resolutions demanding that it halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or a nuclear warhead.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a statement on Tuesday that the new US intelligence report meant that Washington’s push to refer the case over Iran’s nuclear program to the UN Security Council in 2006 was ”illegal”.
In the Iranian capital local resident Daneshpour told AP Television that Bush had always been hostile to Iranians but the international community had started to be believe that Iran’s nuclear ambitions may be peaceful.
”He (Bush) is trying to introduce Iran’s nuclear works as a programme for making nuclear weapons but countries of the region and the international community have realised the peaceful nature of Iran’s activities and know Bush is a liar,” he said.
Alireza Shamsadeh, another Tehran resident, said he believed that Iran’s nuclear programme was a national issue.
”Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. As we can see in the media and the news, Iran cannot and will not halt enriching uranium. Of course I cannot say that a US military strike on Iran is impossible but that’s very improbable,” he said.
New US intelligence report finding that Tehran halted its development of a nuclear bomb he said provides an opportunity.
”I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program, they halted the program,” Bush said. ”The reason why it’s a warning signal is they could restart it.”
Democrats counter that Bush is more interested in making statements than genuinely trying to negotiate some common ground with them.