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(photo credit: AP [file])
A new US intelligence review that concludes Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 is consistent with the UN atomic watchdog agency's own findings and "should help to defuse the current crisis," the organization's chief said Tuesday.
"Although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Mohamed ElBaradei said in a statement.
ElBaradei said he viewed "with great interest" Monday's assessment by the US National Intelligence Estimate, which said Teheran halted nuclear weapons development in late 2003 under international pressure.
The US report noted that Iran continues to enrich uranium, and senior officials in Washington said that means it still may be able to develop a weapon between 2010 and 2015.
Monday's finding by the National Intelligence Estimate was a shift from two years ago, when US intelligence agencies believed Teheran was determined to develop a nuclear capability and was continuing its weapons development program. It suggests that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic pressure, the officials said.
ElBaradei, who was traveling in South America on Tuesday, said the new assessment "should help to defuse the current crisis" over Iran's suspect nuclear program and growing fears that Washington may be gearing up for a possible conflict with the Islamic republic.
"At the same time, it should prompt Iran to work actively with the IAEA to clarify specific aspects of its past and present nuclear program," he said. "This would allow the agency to provide the required assurances regarding the nature of the program."
In the statement, ElBaradei called on Iran to "accelerate" its cooperation with the IAEA and for all parties "to enter without delay into negotiations."
"Such negotiations are needed to build confidence about the future direction of Iran's nuclear program - concern about which has been repeatedly expressed by the Security Council," he said.
"They are also needed to bring about a comprehensive and durable solution that would normalize the relationship between Iran and the international community," ElBaradei said.
Earlier Tuesday, a senior IAEA official said the US report "validates the IAEA's statements over the past years that inspectors have found no concrete evidence of an undeclared nuclear weapons program in Iran."
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the report also backs up ElBaradei's assertion that Iran's program represent no "imminent danger" and that there is "ample time" for negotiations.
Iran, however, still needs to clarify some important aspects of its nuclear program, the official said.
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