Iran says U.S. report a "declaration of surrender"

TEHRAN Sun Dec 16, 2007 5:07pm EST

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a news conference in Tehran December 11, 2007. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a news conference in Tehran December 11, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Raheb Homavandi

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's president said on Sunday the publication of a U.S. intelligence report saying Iran had halted a nuclear weapons program in 2003 amounted to a "declaration of surrender" by Washington in its row with Tehran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also dismissed in an interview with state television the prospect of new U.N. sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt sensitive atomic work.

"It is too far-fetched," he said when asked whether he expected the U.N. Security Council to impose fresh sanctions on Iran following two such resolutions since last December.

Ahmadinejad, who often rails against the West, told a rally earlier this month that the December 3 publication of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate was a "victory" for Iran.

He said on Sunday: "It was in fact a declaration of surrender ... It was a positive action by the U.S. administration to change their attitude and it was a correct move."

Washington is still pushing for more sanctions on Iran despite the U.S. intelligence report, which also said Tehran was continuing to master skills needed to make nuclear weapons. U.S. President George W. Bush said Iran was still a danger.

An exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), last week said Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 but said restarted it a year later, dispersing equipment to thwart international inspectors.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and designed to make electricity. It says it has never had a nuclear weapons program.

"It would be beneficial for both Iran and them (the West) to cooperate with Iran," Ahmadinejad said. "Of course it would be more to their benefit than Iran's."

Iran regularly calls for a change in behavior from the United States, which cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980 after radical students seized the U.S. embassy and took diplomats hostage during the 1979 Islamic revolution.

(Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Richard Williams)

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