Irish Independent: Iran retains key nuclear capabilities despite having frozen weapons development in 2003, and its ambitions cannot be considered benign, a senior US intelligence official told Congress yesterday. The Irish Independent
By Randall Mikkelsen in Washington
Iran retains key nuclear capabilities despite having frozen weapons development in 2003, and its ambitions cannot be considered benign, a senior US intelligence official told Congress yesterday.
The deputy director of US intelligence, Donald Kerr, told a House of Representatives intelligence subcommittee that there was reason to believe Iran still wanted nuclear weapons.
Mr Kerr defended the accuracy of an intelligence estimate this week which concluded that US agencies simply did not know whether Iran intended to develop a nuclear weapon or not.
The report forced President George W Bush to defend his assertions that Iran represented a potential nuclear threat.
The latest report backs off a 2005 conclusion that Iran was determined to develop such a weapon, and states that Iran abandoned weapon design and covert enrichment in 2003.
Iran still had the “most important” component of a future nuclear programme, a uranium-enrichment plant, Mr Kerr told the panel. That and Iran’s civil nuclear power programme could provide important expertise. Iran was also working on ballistic missiles, he said.
“We did not in any way suggest that Iran was benign for the future,” Mr Kerr told the panel. “What we had to do was address the evidence we had, that at least a part of their programme was suspended in 2003.”
Kerr noted that the estimate also concluded with “moderate confidence” that Iran still wanted weapons capability.
Iran has consistently denied pursuing a nuclear weapon. But it has asserted a right to develop civilian nuclear power.
Mr Kerr said the latest report benefited from US intelligence reforms since the September 11 attacks and the flawed pre-war estimate on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
The estimate’s findings were subjected to rigorous challenges and tests of alternative explanations, he said.