President Bush says there will be no change in U.S. policy on Iran following the release of a new U.S. intelligence assessment of Tehran's nuclear capabilities and ambitions. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, Mr. Bush says the world must continue to keep the pressure on Tehran.
The president called a press conference at the White House to specifically address the new intelligence report on Iran that was released on Monday.
According to the report, the U.S. intelligence community now believes Iran halted a secret nuclear weapons program in 2003, and had not resumed work as of mid-2007.
President Bush told reporters the new National Intelligence Estimate does nothing to shake his belief that the international community must be vigilant when it comes to Iran's nuclear intentions.
"Iran was dangerous," he said. "Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Iran has never acknowledged the existence of a nuclear weapons program. The president said the intelligence community report shows Tehran secretly tried to circumvent the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and is attempting to enrich uranium today in defiance of international calls to suspend.
"And so I view this report as a warning signal," said President Bush. "They had the program, they halted the program. And the reason why it is a warning signal is they can restart it and the thing that would make a restarted program effective and dangerous is the ability to enrich uranium, the knowledge of which can be passed on to a hidden program."
The president stressed that Iran halted its nuclear development program in 2003 at about the same time Germany, France, and Britain launched an effort to resolve the dispute over Tehran's nuclear intentions through diplomatic means.
Mr. Bush said the fact that Iran suspended the program shows that Tehran does respond to international pressure. He said pressure is more important now that ever.
"This report is not [saying], okay, everybody needs to relax and quit," he said. "This is a report that says what has happened in the past can be repeated, that the policies used to get the regime to halt are effective policies, let's keep them up, let's continue to work together."
The president said the most effective diplomacy is one in which all options are on the table, implying he would not rule out the military option.
Congressional critics of the administration's Iran policy welcomed the intelligence findings on Iran and urged the White House to tone down its rhetoric..
Illinois Congressman Rahm Emmanuel spoke for Democrats in the House of Representatives.
"We now have the NIE report on Iran, and we can abandon a policy based on hype and fear and go to a policy that is clear-eyed and hard-headed as it relates to Iran," he said.
In a written statement, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Democrat Tom Lantos of California - struck a similar chord. He said the White House needs to engage in more diplomacy on Iran and less saber-rattling.