Iran: U.S. Spied to Get Nuke Info

Iran has sent a formal protest note to Washington for "spying" on Iran's nuclear activities, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in the wake of the latest U.S. report on the alleged Iranian weapons program.

Mottaki said Saturday that the American report earlier this week concluding that Tehran halted atomic weapons development in 2003 and hasn't resumed it since indicated U.S. intelligence agencies based their findings on "satellite and espionage activities," according to the official IRNA news agency.

IRNA said the note was handed over to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which looks after U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington.

"The day the report was issued, the Foreign Ministry submitted a formal note of protest to the Swiss Embassy and demanded explanations over (America's) espionage activities taking place (on Iran's nuclear program)," Mottaki was quoted as saying.

The U.S. report, released Monday, was a sharp turnaround from a previous intelligence assessment in 2005.

Iran has touted the report as a vindication of its claim that its nuclear program is only peaceful. Iranian officials insist Washington should take a less hawkish stance and drop attempts to impose new U.N. sanctions in light of the report's conclusions.

Mottaki said 70 percent of the U.S. report was "true and positive," but denied its allegations of Iran having had a nuclear weapons program before 2003, according to footage provided by AP Television News.

"The remaining 30 percent, in which they claim that Iran had a nuclear weapons program before 2003 is wrong," Mottaki said. "They refused to confess about this 30 percent because they did not want to lose all their reputation."

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, called the report a "sigh of relief" because its conclusions also jibe with his agency's own findings.

Russia, a power Iran looks to for assistance and a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, said Wednesday there was no proof Iran has ever run a nuclear weapons program.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov indicated America's acknowledgment that Iran halted a suspect nuclear weapons bid in 2003 undermine Washington's push for a new set of U.N. sanctions.

The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons — a claim denied by Iran, which says its nuclear program aims only to generate electricity.

Iran has already been slapped with two rounds U.N. Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or a nuclear warhead.

Political directors from the six key countries dealing with Iran's nuclear program — the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — are scheduled to talk by phone on Monday or Tuesday about a new sanctions resolution, Security Council diplomats said.

Mottaki said the U.S. intelligence report contained both "correct and incorrect" information.

He didn't elaborate which parts of the report were in his perception wrong, but claimed it was prepared in early 2007, only to be blocked from release earlier by political bickering in the United States.

"The U.S. intelligence agencies report had been prepared at the beginning of the year, but political disputes between the warmongering faction and their opponents delayed its release," Mottaki said.

Mottaki was also quoted Saturday as saying U.S. President Bush was "lying" when he said he was informed of the report recently.

"Remarks by Bush that he was informed of the report recently shows that he is lying and has a short memory," Mottaki said.

Mottaki added that in the wake of the report, any U.S. military action against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment is ruled out.

"We rule out the option of military strike against Iran after the release of this report," the minister was quoted as saying.

However, a senior Pentagon official on Friday stressed that the new report's playing down of Iran's nuclear ambitions has not changed the U.S. Defense Department's view of Iran as a source of instability in the Middle East.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. military crisis planning on Iran has not changed after the report.