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Olmert: Keep pressure on Iran

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  • Israeli PM says he supports tightening sanctions on Iran
  • International community needs to keep pressure on Iran, he says
  • U.S. intelligence report says Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon in 2003
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TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday international pressure on Iran has been effective and may need increasing -- despite a U.S. intelligence report that Tehran stopped work on nuclear weapons fours years ago.

Olmert, speaking at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, said it was down to the United States, Russia, China and key European Union nations to keep the pressure on Iran.

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran released last week said Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon while under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015.

The assessment reversed a 2005 report that found the Islamic Republic was "determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure."

Olmert said the intelligence report launched "an exaggerated debate" that caused some to believe it signaled a U.S. "retreat from its support of Israel," a belief the prime minister called "groundless."

"The United States led the global campaign against Iran and mobilized its full international strength to set in motion the adoption by the U.N. Security Council of two resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran, since America was convinced that Iran constitutes a real threat to peace in the region and to vital American interests," he said. "This has not changed. Not because I say so -- the Americans say so, the British, the Germans and the French say so as well."

He went on: "Israel supports the tightening of the economic sanctions on Iran and its continued isolation until it fulfills the recommendations of the Security Council and suspends all activities to enrich uranium."

But he added: "The state of Israel is not the main flag-bearer against the quirks of the regime in Tehran." That task, he said, falls to the international community, "headed by the United States, Russia, France, England, Germany and China, and they declare that they will continue in their efforts ceaselessly."

Olmert noted Iran's continued efforts to enrich uranium and said Tehran is working on "the development of a sophisticated electrical system and ballistic missiles." He stopped short of matching comments by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week, who said on Israeli Army Radio that "Iran is probably continuing its program of making a nuclear bomb."

Bush, citing Iran's continued work to enrich uranium, said last week the new intelligence estimate does not change U.S. policy toward that nation.

"They had the program. They halted the program. It's a warning signal because they could restart it," he said.

Olmert said Tuesday: "I attribute great importance to the declaration by the President of the United States, George Bush, that nothing has changed.

"Iran was and remains dangerous and we must continue the international pressure with full force to dissuade Iran from its nuclear tendencies. I trust and am confident that the United States will continue to lead the international campaign to stop the development of a nuclear Iran." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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