'Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous,' Bush insists
U.S. President George W. Bush refused to be deterred by an intelligence report that suggests Iran has halted its bid to build nuclear weapons, insisting that the new information only proves how much of a threat Iran is.
"I view this report as a warning signal,"Bush told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. "Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
"[The report] says Iran had a covert nuclear weapons program. What's to say they couldn't start another covert weapons program?"
Bush said he was briefed on the U.S. National Intelligence Estimatereport just last week. Released to the public on Monday, the report states with "high confidence" that Iran put its bid to build a nuclear bomb on hold in the fall of 2003.
The report, based on the findings of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, is a stark contrast toU.S. intelligence released two years ago that suggested Iran was determined to develop nuclear weapons capabilities and was continuing its weapons development program.
That earlier report prompted Bush to demand the United Nations Security Council secure a third round of sanctions against Iran.At Bush'slast news conference on Oct. 17, he insisted that nations "interested in avoiding World War Three" should be working together to prevent Iran from obtaininga nuclear weapon.
But on Tuesday, Bush said his opinion hasn't changed. Hesaid the new report clearly states that Iran does have uranium enrichment programs and could be technically capable of producing a nuclear weapon by 2010 or 2015.
"Plenty of people understand that if Iran learns how to enrich, that knowledge can be transferred to a weapons program," Bush said. "Most of the world understands that Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a serious danger to peace."
He urged other nations to pressure Iran into stopping all nuclear activities. Bush said Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, needs to know that ifhis countrydoesn't change its tone, it will be isolated internationally.
"Defiance is not the way forward. My hope is that the Iranian regime takes a look at their policies and changes their policies back to the way they were before the election of Ahmadinejad," in 2005.
Iran welcomes the report
While Bush used the report as proof of Iran's danger, Iran's foreign minister on Tuesday welcomed the intelligence. Manouchehr Mottaki said he believes the report indicates that Iran's enrichment program is being usedfor peaceful purposes.
"It's natural that we welcome … countries that correct their views realistically, which in the past had questions and ambiguities about" Iran's nuclear activities, Mottaki said Tuesday.
Conservative Iranianlawmaker Elham Aminzadeh told the Associated Press that "it proved that Iran is not a danger to the world, as some members of the Bush administration claim."
Iran has always insisted it never has sought nuclear weapons.
Report a result post-Iraq intelligence reform: Bush
On Tuesday, Bush was asked by reporterswhether the latest report on Iran is similar to the situation that occurred with Iraq.
Prior to the Iraq invasion in March 2003, the White House released and frequently cited portions of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that claimed Saddam Hussein'sgovernment possessed weapons of mass destruction.
That information later proved to be false.
Bush said there have been many reforms to U.S. intelligence collecting since the intelligence failure in Iraq. He said the new Iran report is"a very important product" that resulted from those reforms.
Democrats call for overhaul
Meanwhile, Bush's Democratic opposition in the U.S.Congress is calling for a major overhaul of the United States' Iran policy in the wake of the report.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the White House must begin "a diplomatic surge" to engage with Iran similar to what previous administrations did with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose director-general, Mohamed El-Baradei, has often clashed with U.S. administration over Iran, responded positively to the report, saying it was "consistent" with its own findings.
In a statement Tuesday, El-Baradei said it should help diffuse the escalating crisis between Iran and Western nations opposed to its nuclear enrichment program, while also prompting Tehran to work with his agency.
In Israel, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said "it's apparently true" that Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program in 2003.
"But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Barak told Army Radio. "There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."
With files from the Associated Press