The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, addressed the National Intelligence Estimate on the Iranian nuclear program on Thursday, saying that the United States "scored a goal" against itself.
Khalilzad's remarks were made during a speech Thursday morning at the Union of Reform Judaism's biennial convention in San Diego, California.
The NIE report concludes Iran halted its weapons development program in 2003 and that the program remained frozen through at least the middle of this year. That reversed a key finding from a 2005 intelligence report, which said Iran was intently developing a nuclear bomb.
Khalilzad said the findings do not negate the need for a third round of UN sanctions against Iran, but admitted they will make it harder for the U.S. to garner international support for further sanctions.
Senior United Nations officials denied reports of disagreements in formulating the language of a new draft resolution against Iran. Sources say consultations are ongoing between government officials based in the capitals of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
Sources confirmed that Russia and China have hardened their positions on the draft in light of the conclusions presented in the NIE regarding Iran's nuclear program, thus delaying an agreement on the document's wording. Observers expect, however, that the document's language will be agreed upon by January 2008, by which time all members of the Security Council will examine it.
Russia and China oppose tightening sanctions that were already imposed on Iran in two prior resolutions. Both nations, however, are expected to support what has been termed "moderate, limited" tightening of sanctions, which would include placing restrictions on Iran's financial activities and placing additional travel restrictions on senior Iranian officials.
The last resolution (1747) was approved in March 2007 while the first set of sanctions (Resolution 1737) was passed in December 2002.
Khalilzad blamed Russia for "dragging its feet" on the sanctions issue, and estimated that a further round of sanctions will not be approved until at least the end of January 2008.
U.S. senator to call for new Iran report using same intelligence
Meanwhile, a Republican senator plans to introduce legeslation to create a bipartisan commission to produce an alternative report on the Iranian nuclear issue based on the same intelligence referenced in the estimate released last week.
The new report was received skeptically by some Republicans in Congress who believe Iran's nuclear program remains an immediate threat, and think the 2005 report is closer to the truth.
Republican Senator John Ensign plans to introduce legislation to create a bipartisan commission to produce an alternative report on the same intelligence.
"We just see politics injected into this," said Tory Mazzola, Ensign's spokesman. "When it comes to national security we really need to remove politics. We're saying, let's take a second look."
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