Europe shares concerns about weapons capability

? A surprising U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran shuttered a nuclear weapons program in 2003 has done nothing to diminish concerns over Iran’s defiance of UN Security Council demands or its lack of transparency, analysts and Western diplomats close to negotiations said Tuesday.

Some analysts said the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report – which ran counter to Bush administration arguments that Iran was pursuing a weapons program – seemed to sink talk of military action.

Still, diplomats familiar with negotiations, including high-level talks in Paris this weekend among major powers, said the European allies as well as Russia and China understand that Iran needs to be pressured in order to abide by its commitments to explain its nuclear program. A third round of economic sanctions, now under discussion, is still a viable option, they said.

“The question of clarity remains,” said Cristina Gallach, aide to European Union envoy Javier Solana who expressed disappointment last weekend after meeting with Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. “We’ve been prudent. As far as we can tell, our policy of dialogue and pressure should not change based on this report.”

One European diplomat said the new intelligence report “was surprising” and “set a far different tone for the U.S.,” but “the possibility of sanctions remain.” The diplomat added, “We still want Iran to give us good reason to trust them.”