Monday, December 03, 2007

Bond Urges Caution on Iran Report

Missouri's senior Senator says a new unclassified report on Iran's nuclear program "is probably good news, but cautions that serious diplomatic problems with the country remain."

Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in the fall of 2003 under international pressure but is continuing to enrich uranium, which means it may still be able to develop a weapon between 2010 and 2015, senior U.S. intelligence officials said Monday.

That finding, in a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, is a change from two years ago, when U.S. intelligence agencies believed Tehran was determined to develop a nuclear capability and was continuing its weapons development program.

“At first blush, this looks like a good news story. Good because the Intelligence Community was willing to reconsider an important intelligence judgment. More importantly, it’s good news that Iran doesn’t appear to be currently working on a bomb. I look forward, however, to the completion of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s examination of the Iran NIE and the underlying intelligence documents, so that I can better understand how they reached these judgments," Sen. Kit Bond said in a statement Monday.

The new intelligence estimate also judges that Tehran is “at a minimum” keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.

Bond said the Senate Intelligence Committee has been reviewing the quality of the Intelligence Community’s Iran assessments for several years and stressed that the committee will thoroughly examine both the classified NIE and the underlying intelligence reporting upon which the NIE’s assessments were based.

Bond cautioned that regardless of Iran’s current intent concerning nuclear weapons, Tehran’s pursuit of a uranium enrichment capability remains a significant problem.

“Uranium enrichment is a dangerous capability. I’m not comfortable with Iran having the means to produce bomb-grade material, in case they change their mind later. I hope this new assessment doesn’t undermine the current multi-lateral efforts to resolve that problem,” said Bond.

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