Report: Iran Stopped Weapons Program in 2003
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
President Bush holds a news conference at the White House this morning. Aides say he'll chastise Congress for not finishing work on budget bills, including funding for the Iraq War.
But Iran is likely to dominate reporters' questions, now that a new intelligence report concludes Iran is not actively pursuing nuclear weapons.
NPR's Don Gonyea has more.
DON GONYEA: Monday was Congress's first day back after two weeks off, and the president took on a scolding tone when he spoke to reporters in the Rose Garden yesterday. He called for Congress to pass his spending priorities and threatened another veto if Congress continues to insist on its own.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: It is time for members of Congress to meet their responsibility to our men and women in uniform, and they should stay in session until they pass these emergency funds for our troops.
GONYEA: But within hours of the president making that statement, word broke of a new national intelligence estimate - the combined assessment produced by all of the nation's intelligence services. It says that Iran stopped efforts to build a nuclear weapon back in 2003. That flatly contradicts the increasingly dire warnings about the threat posed by Iran that have been issued from the White House over the past several years, including a comment by Mr. Bush in October that if we want to prevent World War III, we must frustrate Iran's efforts to obtain or develop a nuclear weapon.
Still, yesterday National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley conceded nothing and said the U.S. must keep the pressure on Iran.
Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (National Security Advisor): I think there is going to be a tendency for a lot of people to say, a-ha, problem's less bad than we thought, let's relax. And I think our view is that would be a mistake.
GONYEA: Iran will no doubt be a major topic at this morning's news conference. The president is expected to argue that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program as recently as 2003 and that this pursuit casts a cloud over what Tehran characterizes as a civilian drive for a nuclear power plant to meet energy needs.
Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed to the new intelligence report as evidence that the White House has been exaggerating a security threat just as they say it did five years ago to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
MONTAGNE: And you can read the National Intelligence Estimate report on Iran at npr.org.