The CIA has hampered al-Qaida's free rein in the tribal region of western Pakistan, and Iran appears to be nearing a decision on whether to build a nuclear warhead, departing CIA chief Michael Hayden said Thursday. "The great danger was that the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan was a safe haven. My belief is that it is neither safe nor a haven," Hayden said at the agency's headquarters in what probably was his final briefing for reporters. President-elect Barack Obama has picked Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton to head the agency. Hayden said the progress in the tribal region was a "big deal." It is the result, he said, of the Bush administration's push to dislodge al-Qaida from the enclave the terrorist network established on the Pakistan border after it fleeing Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks.