Israel officials in US to discuss Iran
( Reuters )- Israel has dispatched an unscheduled delegation of intelligence officials to the U.S. to try to convince it that Iran is still trying to develop nuclear weapon - contrary to the findings of a recent U.S. intelligence report, security officials said.
The delegation, which set off last week on its unscheduled mission, will wind up its visit this week, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
It was not clear what type of material the Israeli delegation - for the most part military intelligence officers - presented to U.S. officials.
The U.S. and Israel will also hold additional joint formal meetings on the matter in coming weeks, the Israeli officials said recently. Israel will use these forums to try to persuade the Americans that Iran is trying to development nuclear weapons, and intends to present information classified as top secret for security reasons, the officials said.
The U.S. report, released earlier this month, concludes Iran halted its weapons development program in 2003 and that the program remained frozen through at least through the middle of this year. The findings reversed a key conclusion from a 2005 intelligence report that Iran was developing a bomb.
Israeli officials who have reviewed all known intelligence on Iran's nuclear activities have concluded that Iran did in fact suspend its atomic weapons development in 2003, after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the Israeli security officials said. But Israel is convinced the Iranians set up a new production line whose details aren't known fully to Western intelligence agencies, they said.
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted that Iran hasn't abandoned its attempts to develop a nuclear weapon.
On Saturday, a senior Israeli Cabinet minister who once headed Israel's internal security agency issued the country's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. intelligence report, calling it a "misconception" that threatened to lead to a surprise regional war.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the Yom Kippur Jewish holy day on which it began.
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."
Dichter didn't elaborate on the potential scenario but seemed to imply that a world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable to attack by the Islamic regime.
Israel considers the regime in Tehran to be its biggest threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program and repeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad , to wipe Israel off the map.
Iran says its nuclear program is designed to produce energy.