TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran has protested to Washington over its “spying” on the Islamic state’s nuclear activities, the official IRNA agency reported, after a U.S. intelligence report saying Tehran had halted a nuclear arms programme in 2003.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying on Saturday that Iran had sent a protest letter to its arch-foe through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which handles U.S. interests in the country. “The ministry submitted a letter to the Swiss embassy in Tehran … demanding explanations over America’s espionage on Iran’s nuclear case,” Mottaki said.
Mottaki, addressing students in Tehran, said it was delivered shortly after the U.S. intelligence report was published last Monday in Washington.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had welcomed the report shortly after its release. Its contradiction of President George W. Bush’s accusations Iran sought nuclear weapons marked, he said, a victory for Tehran.
Mottaki said on Saturday the report itself had made clear the use of surveillance satellites and other espionage operations. “Iran is seriously following up the issue of espionage,” Mottaki said.
Bush has said Iran remained a danger because it was mastering technology with a military use. But the intelligence assessment appeared likely to increase resistance from Russia and China to U.S. demands for further United Nations sanctions against Iran, following two rounds of U.N. punitive measures since December.
Analysts have also said the U.S. report, which reversed previous assessments, makes it much less likely that the United States would attack Iran.
Iran says its atomic work was always peaceful and aimed at generating electricity so that the world’s fourth-largest oil producer can export more of its oil and gas.
Mottaki said the U.S. report to 70 percent reflected “the realities of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities,” IRNA said. Mehr news agency quoted him as saying the other 30 percent related to activities before 2003 and was “all lies.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Bahrain on Saturday that Iran still poses a threat, arguing it has the capability to restart its weapons programme.
Gates also told a security conference Iran continues to enrich uranium, which has both civilian and military uses.
The Swiss embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran because Washington has not had a mission there since 1980, when Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy and held 52 American hostages for 444 days.
In May, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to condemn what it said was U.S. backing of spy networks inside the Islamic Republic.