OMAHA President Bush this morning said that a new intelligence report about Irans nuclear weapons program will not hinder U.S. efforts to increase sanctions on Tehran. The remarks came as the administration moves to counter growing concern that the report will weaken resolve among the international community.
In addition, the White House pounced on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejads declaration that the new report was a victory for Iran, saying any such statements are divorced from reality.
Iran should take no comfort from the [National Intelligence Estimate], said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
Mr. Bush, moments after disembarking Air Force One en route to a healthcare event and a political fundraiser, said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has received assurances from three of the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security CouncilBritain, France and Russiaas well as Germany.
These countries understand that the Iranian nuclear issue is a problem, and continues to be a problem, that must be addressed by the international community, Mr. Bush said at a rostrum on the tarmac of Eppley Air Field.
Mr. Bush said that, in light of the new intelligence, the Iranian government has more to explain, and that it must come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities.
However, Russias foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, gave a noncommittal statement about the potential for new sanctions against Iran in the United National Security Council.
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," Mr. Lavrov said.
Mr. Bush said he was briefed aboard Air Force One on conversations between foreign government officials, Ms. Rice, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
The one Security Council member excluded from the presidents statement is China, whose U.N. ambassador said yesterday that, because of the new report, things have changed.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that there will be no change in U.S. policy toward Iran because of the new report, and that any direct talks with Tehran will still be conditioned on reforms by the Iranian government.
The NIE, released Monday, said that Iran had a covert nuclear weapons program but halted it in 2003, reversing a prior determination that Iran was actively pursuing weapons.
The report has sparked calls for the U.S. to change its policy, which has been to isolate Tehran, push for continued sanctions, and use bellicose rhetoric about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
But Mr. Fratto told reporters on board Air Force One that the Bush administration plans to maintain their current policy.
Absolutely not it doesnt change [U.S. policy], Mr. Fratto said. Anyone who thinks that the threat from Iranhas diminished is nave.
Mr. Bush said that Iran must suspend enriching uranium, in violation of a U.N. resolution, or continue on a path of isolation that is not in the best interest of the people of Iran.
Mr. Fratto said the U.S. will continue to push for a third resolution sanctioning Iran in the United Nations Security Council.
And he rejected the notion of direct negotiations with Iran unless their government ceases enriching uranium and testing mid-range ballistic missiles.
Talks with Iran should beconditioned on Irans compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions, Mr Fratto said.