(photo credit: AP)
Iran's foreign minister welcomed Tuesday the US decision to "correct" its claim that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program, state-run radio reported.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was referring to a US intelligence assessment released Monday that reversed earlier claims that Iran had restarted its weapons program in 2005 after suspending it in 2003.
"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.
Several other Iranian officials also praised the new intelligence report, saying it proved Teheran's nuclear program was peaceful and had "disarmed" hawkish members of US President George W. Bush's administration pushing for military action against Iran.
"This confession from within the US administration's most sensitive organs is proof ... that (Iran's) nuclear program is peaceful," top lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.
The US and some of its allies have consistently accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a claim Iran has denied.
Another conservative lawmaker, Elham Aminzadeh, said the new report would hinder US officials who have threatened to use military action to halt Iran's nuclear activities.
"It has disarmed them," IRNA quoted Elham Aminzadeh as saying. "It proved that Iran is not a danger to the world, as some members of the Bush administration claim."
The new US intelligence report concluded that Iran's nuclear weapons development program has been halted since the fall of 2003 because of international pressure.
The finding is part of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that also cautions that Teheran continues to enrich uranium and still could develop a bomb between 2010 and 2015 if it decided to do so.
The conclusion that Iran's weapons program was still frozen, through at least mid-2007, represents a sharp turnaround from the previous intelligence assessment in 2005.
Then, US intelligence agencies believed Teheran was determined to develop a nuclear weapons capability and was continuing its weapons development program. The new report concludes that Iran's decisions are rational and pragmatic, and that Teheran is more susceptible to diplomatic and financial pressure than previously thought.
"Teheran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," said the unclassified summary of the report released Monday.
The finding is expected to bolster those who say Bush has overstated the threat posed by Iran and weaken the argument for military action.
It was uncertain whether the development will have an impact on the Bush administration's drive for new sanctions against Iran in the United Nations.
A top US diplomat said Monday before the report was released that China may be open to discussing fresh UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. Like Russia, China had been reluctant to support new sanctions; both Russia and China have Security Council vetoes that could stop an American effort to push through tougher sanctions.
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