WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The deputy intelligence chief tried Thursday to squash any suggestion that the newly released assessment on Iran's nuclear weapons program indicates Iran is less of a threat.
President Bush tells reporters Tuesday that Iran still poses a threat to the world.
At a hearing before a House intelligence subcommittee, Donald Kerr defended the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate -- which said Iran stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 -- but at the same time insisted that the NIE "did not in any way suggest that Iran was benign for the future."
He said Iranians continue work on what he called the "most important component" of any future program, a civilian uranium enrichment plant. Both intelligence officials and nuclear weapons experts have said producing fissile material such as highly enriched uranium is the most difficult aspect of creating a nuclear weapon.
Kerr also said Iran continues to develop a medium ballistic missile, which could be used as the delivery system for nuclear weapons.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kansas, expressing concern about the Iranian threat to the United States, questioned Kerr about whether the intelligence community has a "clear signal" of what Iran is up to.
He said there are "mixed signals," arguing that the NIE's conclusion that the Iranians "haven't been doing anything since 2003" regarding a nuclear weapon program doesn't match the words and actions of the Iranian government.
But Kerr said the latest report "is probably one of the most well-sourced NIEs that has ever been written," pointing out that more than 1,000 source notes are contained in the document. E-mail to a friend
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