Briefing From the Prime Minister's Spokesperson on the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran (Excerpts)

December 4, 2007

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

. . .

Asked on the make-up of the discussions in Cabinet on Iran and whether they included the American Intelligence report, the PMS said the discussions had touched on that. In general, the Government's position was that it needed to examine the detail of the report, but in overall terms the Government believed that the report confirmed that it was right to be concerned about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It also showed that the sanction programme and international pressure had had some effect. It also shows that the intent was there and the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remained a very serious issue.

As people knew, Iran's civilian uranium enrichment programme was continuing and once a country mastered the technology to enrich uranium for use for civilian purposes, it could readily use the same technology to produce weapons grade uranium.

The PMS went on to say that the degree of engagement that there has been with both the EU Solana process and the IAEA process had not been as full as the Government would have liked. It would continue to discuss the matter with its key international allies and the Government would be looking for further discussion at the UN in the weeks ahead.

Asked if the American Intelligence report had surprised the Government, the PMS said that the detail was being examined and the Government was in close contact with the Americans. The real issue over recent months had been the civilian uranium enrichment programme and the potential that that holds for using the same technology to produce weapons grade uranium.

Asked if he was making a distinction between the prospect of the Iranian's acquiring a bomb and the Iranian enrichment programme for civilian purposes and were the Iranian's still a threat, the PMS replied that they were still a threat because of the potential for the civilian nuclear programme, which is based on uranium enrichment to use the same technology to produce weapons grade uranium. Put that you could forgive the public for not knowing who to believe anymore given that the Americans were now saying that the Iranian's had not been pursuing a nuclear bomb for four years, the PMS said that there were different issues here. There was the issue that was addressed directly by the American report, which certainly did show that the intent was there and that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remained a very serious problem. There was also the issue of the civilian programme and the potential that that holds for the same technology to be used to produce weapons grade Uranium.

Asked if the Government's bottom line was that it did not want Iran to have a civilian nuclear programme, the PMS repeated that the issue was not civilian nuclear power as such; it was the extent to which the technology used for civilian nuclear power could also be used to produce weapons grade uranium. That was what the IAEA and EU processes were designed to address and the Government had not seen as full cooperation as it would like from Iran, in respect to both those processes.

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