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Russia knew Iran had no nukes

Russia says it never saw evidence backing U.S. claims that Iran was trying to build nuclear weapons. It follows a shock report from American intelligence clearing Tehran of developing atomic bombs. Iran's President is claiming the report as a victory ov

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia has no reason to believe Iran ever tried to build a nuclear arsenal.

“We've no information such work was conducted before 2003, although our American colleagues have claimed that was the case,” he said.

“The data possessed by our American partners, or at least the data shown to us, gives no reason to assume Iran has ever pursued a military nuclear programme,” continued Russian minister.

The statement comes after a U.S. intelligence report said Tehran abandoned attempts to develop a nuclear deterrent in 2003.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the reprort vindicated his policies. The Iranian President has been telling the world for years that his country's nuclear programme was simply for producing electricity.

It's ironic that he's now being supported by the most unlikely source imaginable – American intelligence.

“This report is a declaration of victory by the Iranian nation over the world powers in the nuclear issue. Iran will not retreat 'one step' from its peaceful nuclear programme,” the Iranian President said.

International analyst Sergey Druzhilovsky says there's no reason why Iran can't continue to build up a nuclear industry so long as it keeps co-operating with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Iran continues to take steps towards the IAEA but not the U.S. or Russia. Iran meets almost all the demands from IAEA.”

Neither side happy

While intelligence agencies may have played down the supposed threat of a nuclear Iran, President Bush isn't in any rush to give Tehran the all-clear.

President Bush said he saw the report as “a warning signal”. He says it showed “that they had the programme, they halted the programme. And the reason why it's a warning signal is that they could restart it,” Bush warned.

But after talks in Moscow on Tuesday, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili dismissed Bush’s claims the weapons threat is still real. He said the intelligence report didn't go far enough in clearing Iran.

“In the report they said that Iran's nuclear activity was peaceful after 2003. I hope they say in their next report that all Iran's activity was peaceful since the beginning,” Jalili said.

But the issue remains far from clear cut. The intelligence report says Iran could make nuclear weapons by 2015, and the international community must not abandon efforts to stop this.