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US Says Iran Remains a Threat; Iran Accuses US of Espionage


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Iran remains a threat to the Middle East and the United States, despite a new U.S. report saying Tehran ended a nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Gates told a security conference in Bahrain Saturday that he believes Iran is pursuing destabilizing foreign policies and is trying to create instability and chaos in the Middle East.

He said the United States and the international community must intensify efforts in pressuring Iran to stop enriching uranium - a process that can be used in developing nuclear weapons. He said Persian Gulf countries must demand that Iran clear all ambiguities about its past nuclear activities and pledge not to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran is accusing the United States of using espionage to compile the report that was released Monday, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate.

The official news agency, IRNA, quotes Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying his government sent a protest letter to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, demanding an explanation.

The Swiss Embassy handles U.S. interests in the absence of U.S. diplomatic representation.

Iran has never acknowledged having a nuclear weapons program and says its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only.

In a statement issued today, the principal deputy director of U.S. National Intelligence, Donald Kerr, said the U.S. intelligence community is confident of the analysis in the report.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.