Washington - The United States says it will not alter plans to build a missile defense system in Europe despite findings by US intelligence agencies that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program.
US President Bush makes a statement about Iran upon his arrival at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb., December 5, 2007. [Agencies]
Since US officials have said the threat from Iran was the main reason for building the defense shield, however, the Americans may have a harder time persuading European allies that it still is necessary.
Already, a Czech official responsible for explaining the need for the missile defense system to the public in his country says his job has become more difficult after Monday's release of the US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. The report, reflecting analyses of all 16 US intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran suspended its attempt to build a nuclear weapon four years ago.
"Czech newspapers are full of headlines saying there is no longer a need for missile defense," said Tomas Klvana, the Czech government's coordinator for missile defense communication, who is in Washington for talks with administration officials and lawmakers. "It is hard for complex arguments to win against simple headlines."
Klvana says the potential threat from ballistic missiles aimed at Europe remains, whether Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons or not.
That view is shared by the Bush administration.
"The missile threat from Iran continues to progress and to cause us to be very concerned," said Undersecretary of State John Rood, lead US negotiator on European missile defense issues. "Missile defense would be useful regardless of what kind of payload, whether that be conventional, chemical, biological or nuclear."