MANAMA, Bahrain (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called on the international community to step up pressure on Iran to vow not to develop nuclear weapons, to suspend uranium enrichment and to open up its nuclear facilities for inspection.
Gates' address to a Gulf states' security conference Saturday came a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters at a NATO meeting in Belgium that the United States will continue to push for a new U.N. resolution to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program.
Gates sarcastically noted that Iran celebrated the U.S. intelligence community's recent report -- the National Intelligence Estimate -- that said Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. He said it marks a "watershed" that "Iran has, for the first time, embraced as valid an assessment of the United States intelligence community -- on Iran's nuclear weapons program."
He said "since that government now acknowledges the quality of American intelligence assessments, I assume that it also will embrace as valid American intelligence assessments" that Iran is funding and training of militia groups in Iraq; deploying lethal weapons and technology to both Iraq and Afghanistan; supporting terrorist organizations -- like Hezbollah and Hamas -- that have murdered thousands of innocent civilians; and continued research and development of medium-range ballistic missiles that can carry weapons of mass destruction.
"In reality, you cannot pick and choose only the conclusions you like of this National Intelligence Estimate," Gates said.
"The report expresses with greater confidence than ever that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program -- developed secretly, kept hidden for years, and in violation of its international obligations," he said.
"It reports that they do continue their nuclear enrichment program, an essential long lead time component of any nuclear weapons program. It states that they do have the mechanisms still in place to restart their program."
Gates said pressure from the international community is the only thing that can stop Iran from restarting its nuclear weapons program at any time "if it has not done so already."
"While we must keep our options open, the United States and the international community must continue -- and intensify -- our economic, financial, and diplomatic pressures on Iran to suspend enrichment and agree to verifiable arrangements that can prevent that country from resuming its nuclear weapons program at a moment's notice -- at the whim of its most militant leaders," Gates said.
"Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents -- Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike," he said.
"There can be little doubt that their destabilizing foreign policies are a threat to the interests of the United States, to the interests of every country in the Middle East, and to the interests of all countries within the range of the ballistic missiles Iran is developing."
Gates, in an interview Friday with the Al-Arabiya television network, said: "The U.S. is 100 percent committed to a diplomatic option on Iran," according to a retranslation of his remarks from English to Arabic to English. E-mail to a friend
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