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Iran Halted Nuclear Arms Program in 2003, Report Finds

A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report released Monday found that Iran stopped developing nuclear weapons in 2003, but continues to enrich uranium and could still develop atomic arms in the future. Two intelligence experts discuss the findings and what they may mean for diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.S.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The new intelligence report released today contradicts an earlier, more pessimistic assessment made just two years ago. That 2005 report concluded with high confidence that Iran was determined to develop nuclear weapons.

    But the revised consensus view of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies says Tehran halted its nuclear weapon program in 2003.

    The unclassified portion of the report read, in part, "Tehran's decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure." And it suggests that it is "less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005."

    The key judgments also determined that Iran could probably not acquire enough material for a weapon before 2009 and probably could not produce a bomb before 2013. The NIE also concludes that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."

    National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the report showed the administration's suspicions of Iran were correct.

  • STEPHEN HADLEY, National Security Adviser:

    On balance, the estimate is good news. On the one hand, it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

    On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen. But it also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The new report comes just two months after President Bush issued this warning about Iran's nuclear capabilities.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Hadley said today, even taking into account the new information contained in today's report, the administration remains concerned about Iran's nuclear intentions.