At a morning press conference today, President Bush said Iran was dangerous before the NIE and Iran remains dangerous.
“Nothing has changed,” the President said.
Don’t let Iran off the hook just yet
By Angela Charlton, Associated Press
PARIS – Don’t letoff the hook quite yet.
That’s the message European and U.N. officials are sending after a U.S. intelligence report concluded Iran is not building nuclear weapons.
Europeans say the U.S. U-turn strengthens their argument for negotiations with Tehran. But they also said that sanctions are still an option to compel Iran to be fully transparent about its nuclear program.
The report, a composite of findings from several U.S. intelligence agencies released Monday, said Iran halted nuclear weapons development in 2003; a stunning reversal for an administration whose conviction that Iran was seeking nuclear arms has driven two rounds of U.N. sanctions and stoked worldwide proliferation fears.
European officials, eager not to appear thrown off balance by the surprising report, insisted that the international community should not walk away from years of talks with an often defiant Tehran that is openly enriching uranium for uncertain ends. The report said Iran could still build a nuclear bomb by 2010-15.
“We must maintain pressure on Iran,” said French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani, whose country has taken an increasingly tough stance against Iran in recent months.
She saidwould pursue a new U.N. resolution with “constraining measures” against Iran over its refusal to comply with international obligations. A tougher stance on Iran was a campaign promise of French President , elected in May.
The EU’s foreign policy chief,, has led ‘s push to get Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment; an effort that will not be derailed by the U.S. report, said an EU official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“It’s very important for us not to say, ‘Oh thanks for that, this whole thing is over now.’ It isn’t over. Iran is still in defiance of theand the Nonproliferation Treaty,” said William Hague, foreign affairs spokesman for Britain’s opposition Conservative Party.
British Prime Minister‘s spokesman Michael Allam said, “The report confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It also shows that the sanctions program and international pressure has had some effect.”
The report may relieve European fears about a possible U.S. move toward war in Iran. Sarkozy has evoked the risk of “a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb, or the bombing of Iran” if diplomacy and sanctions fail.
“Those who believe dealing with Iran can only be done through a military attack are weakened,” said Yossi Mekelberg, a Middle East expert at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank in.
The report was a vindication for the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the, which has been criticized as too cautious on Iran.
IAEA Director Generalsaid the report “should help defuse the current crisis,” the agency said in a statement.
“The estimate tallies with the agency’s consistent statements over the last few years,” it said. The IAEA urged further negotiations on the future of Iran’s nuclear program.
Despite the continued talk of sanctions, the viability of a new U.N. resolution was uncertain in the face of the new report. After high-level talks in Paris on Saturday, world powers predicted a third U.N. sanctions resolution within weeks.
The United States, Britain andhave been leading a push for more sanctions, while and , the other two veto-wielding members of the , have been less enthusiastic.
China’s Foreign Ministry would not say Tuesday whether the new report could undercut the case for sanctions or whetherwould support new measures against Tehran.
Ministry spokesman Qin Gang instead reiterated China’s standard position of using “diplomatic negotiations first” and said China hopes that “Iran can earnestly fulfill the U.N. Security Council resolutions and carry out comprehensive cooperation with the IAEA and make clarifications on relevant issues.”
Francois Gere, an Iran specialist and head of the French Institute of Strategic Analysis, said the report would have more impact on U.S. politics and strategy than in.
“Europeans were, and remain, in a logic of diplomacy,” he said.