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KAI RYSSDAL: Let the record show the President started his news conference this morning with free trade. He called on the Senate to pass a trade deal with Peru, which it did later in the day. But the assembled White House press corps was having none of it. Most of the questions this morning were about the news that broke yesterday afternoon — that a new U.S. intelligence report has concluded Iran stopped work on a suspected nuclear weapons program four years ago. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale has more now from Washington.
JOHN DIMSDALE: The United States has been lobbying for new United Nations sanctions to punish Iran for violating international rules against uranium enrichment. At the White House today, President George Bush said the latest National Intelligence Estimate has not changed his opinion on Iran.
PRESIDENT BUSH: To me, the NIE provides an opportunity for us to rally the international community … continue to rally the community … to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its program.
But Martin Indyk at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy says without a weapons program, Iran’s uranium enrichment looks more benign.
Martin Indyk: It certainly seriously undermines the effort that the Bush administration has been pursuing because the urgency of ratcheting up the sanctions, which is what the security council is going to consider this month, has gone out of the whole process
Countries such as China and Germany have been reluctant to isolate Iran from the beginning. Jon Wolfsthal at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says now further sanctions are unlikely.
Jon WOLFSTHAL: I think there is a serious question about how anyone could read this NIE and not think differently about Iran. It doesn’t mean we have to give them a bear hug and sing Kumbaya. But I think it does force us to reevaluate our base assumptions and see whether or not negotiations and engagement might bear fruit.
European leaders who’ve been pushing for more sanctions said today that now is not the time to ease the pressure on Iran to end its uranium enrichment program.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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