PM: NIE triggered exaggerated debate

Olmert says Teheran trying to develop sophisticated electrical system and ballistic missiles.

Olmert frowns 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
Olmert frowns 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which said Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, has triggered an "exaggerated debate" inside Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday. In a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Olmert said some people interpreted the report as signifying that the US had withdrawn its support for Israel. "There is no truth to this," Olmert said. "The US led the international campaign against Iran and used all its international strength to get the UN Security Council to adopt two sanctions resolutions against Iran, because the US was convinced that Iran constituted a real threat to regional peace and vital US interests. That has not changed." During the speech, which was delivered on the night before bilateral negotiations were scheduled to begin with the Palestinians, Olmert took the opportunity to extend a hand to the Syrians. The Iranian situation, Olmert said, did not detract from his intention to "invest in efforts to create dialogue and negotiations with our neighbors." He said that this process had begun in Annapolis, and he hoped it would lead to a "continuous and serious" diplomatic dialogue. "But we don't only want to make peace with the Palestinians. Every neighboring Arab state, also Syria, is a target for the efforts I hope will bring about negotiations and a peace agreement," he said. Olmert reiterated Israel's position that Iran was continuing its efforts to enrich uranium, and that the NIE said it could have enough enriched uranium for a weapon by 2010. He also repeated what he said Sunday at a security cabinet meeting on the matter, that Iran was continuing to develop two fundamental components for a nuclear weapons system: ballistic missiles and the production of enriched uranium. Olmert said he placed a great deal of importance on the comments US President George W. Bush had made following publication of the NIE that "nothing has changed. Iran was and remains dangerous, and there is a need to continue with the international pressure to move Iran from its nuclear goals." Olmert said he was certain the US would continue to lead the international efforts to stop Iran's nuclear development. Although some have said the NIE determination that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program has left Israel alone against Iran, Olmert said "this is not only an Israeli problem, but a general one."