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Middle East

Iranian Leader Hails U.S. Intelligence Report

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called a new U.S. intelligence review concluding that Tehran had suspended its nuclear weapons program a "declaration of victory" for his nation.

The report released Monday concluded that Iran had stopped its weapons program in late 2003 and since then had shown no signs of resuming it – a sharp reversal from a previous intelligence assessment in 2005.

"This is a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people during a visit to Ilam province in western Iran.

"This was a final shot to those who, in the past several years, spread a sense of threat and concern in the world through lies of nuclear weapons," Ahmadinejad said, drawing celebratory whistles from the crowd.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would not directly respond to Ahmadinejad's remarks, but told reporters in the Ethiopian capital Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence report's public release showed the Bush administration was committed to transparent democracy while Iran was not.

Russia's Foreign Minister Serget Lavrov, meanwhile, hinted that the latest U.S. findings would affect Washington's push for a new set of U.N. sanctions against Iran.

"We will assess the situation regarding a new U.N. Security Council resolution taking into account all these facts, including the U.S. confirmation that it has no information about the existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran," Lavrov told reporters.

China, another veto-wielding council member, had said Tuesday the report raised second thoughts about new sanctions.

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate was released two days after the world's major powers met in Paris on Saturday and indicated that a compromise text on a third sanctions resolution could be circulated at the U.N. as early as Friday by the six countries - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

President Bush defended his approach Tuesday, and Rice said it would be a "big mistake" to ease any diplomatic pressure on Iran despite the new U.S. findings.

"I continue to see Iran as a dangerous power in international politics," Rice told reporters traveling with her to Ethiopia where she planned to see African leaders. "At this moment, it doesn't appear to have an active weaponization program. That frankly is good news. But if it causes people to say, 'Oh, well, then we don't need to worry about what the Iranians are doing,' I think we will have made a big mistake."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press