Iran declares victory after US atom report
Tehran, December 5, 2007
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared victory on Wednesday after a US intelligence report contradicted the Bush administration's charge that Iran was actively seeking nuclear weapons.
'Today, the Iranian nation is victorious but you (the United States) are empty-handed,' the president said in a televised speech to a rally in the western Iranian city of Ilam.
The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Monday surprised US friends and foes by saying Iran halted an atomic weapons programme in 2003, contradicting US President George W Bush's charge that Tehran had an active bomb programme.
Tehran has already welcomed the report although it insists its nuclear programme has never had any military goals.
'This report ... is announcing a victory for the Iranian nation in the nuclear issue against all international powers,' the president said.
The NIE report, however, said Iran was continuing to develop the technical means that could be applied to producing weapons.
In reponse to the report, Bush said Iran remained a danger if it mastered the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon.
The United States said it would continue pushing for a third UN sanctions resolution. Two sets of UN sanctions have been imposed so far because Iran has refused to stop uranium enrichment, a process that has both military and civilian uses.
China, which has a UN Security Council veto and agreed only reluctantly to earlier sanctions, said 'things have changed' with the NIE report. France and Britain, two other permanent council members, said pressure should be kept up.
'If you want to start a new political game, the united Iranian nation will resist you and will not retreat one step from its programme,' the president said. 'We will continue our nuclear programme and we will not give it up.'
Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready for talks that were 'honest and cooperative' on the nuclear programme, repeating Iran's long-standing call for dialogue to end the row.
The United States has said Iran must first halt uranium enrichment before any formal talks can start. Tehran has refused to stop, saying such activities are a national right that it will never give up. - Reuters