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Middle East

Iran Welcomes Revised U.S. Nuclear Assessment

Iran on Tuesday welcomed a partially declassified U.S. intelligence report indicating that Tehran shut down its nuclear program in 2003 and has not restarted it.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki praised Washington for deciding to "correct" its claim that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program, state-run radio reported. He was referring to a U.S. intelligence report released Monday that reversed an earlier assessment indicating that Tehran re-started an uranium enrichment program in 2005.

"It's natural that we welcome ... countries that correct their views realistically which in the past had questions and ambiguities about (Iran's nuclear activities)," Mottaki said.

The new U.S. intelligence report Monday concluded that Iran's nuclear weapons development program has been halted since the fall of 2003 because of international pressure.

The finding is part of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that also cautions that Tehran continues to enrich uranium and still could develop a bomb between 2010 and 2015 if it decided to do so.

Then, U.S. intelligence agencies believed Tehran was determined to develop a nuclear weapons capability and was continuing its weapons development program. The new report concludes that Iran's decisions are rational and pragmatic, and that Tehran is more susceptible to diplomatic and financial pressure than previously thought.

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," says the unclassified summary of the secret report.

The findings come at a time of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, which President Bush has labeled part of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and North Korea.

At an Oct. 17 news conference, Bush said, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press