White House blames ‘clerical error’ for 'mistaken' claim about Iran's nuclear programme

The error was corrected on the White House website within three hours

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 01 May 2018 20:38 BST
The White House quietly changed the statement online, but did not issue a formal correction
The White House quietly changed the statement online, but did not issue a formal correction (Getty)

The White House has quietly fixed a one-letter mistake on an official statement that led to some concern about the United States’ official policy towards Iran.

The mistake came in a Monday night statement credited to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and asserted that Iran “has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.”

The present-tense nature of that statement contradicts determinations by the American intelligence community, which has said Tehran froze its nuclear enrichment program after the 2015 nuclear agreement was signed between the US and several other western nations.

Less than three hours later, the initial statement was amended to reflect the intelligence community’s point of view, and declared that Iran “had” such a program.

The White House did not issue a formal correction, but provided CNN with an explanation for the error.

“The original White House statement included a clerical error, which we quickly detected and fixed,” a National Security Council spokesperson told the news network. “To be clear, the United States has long known that Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.”

The mistake comes as President Donald Trump has publicly mulled over the possibility of declaring that Iran has violated the nuclear agreement, and as European leaders have urged him against scrapping the accord. Mr Trump has given himself until May 12 to decide the fate of the nuclear deal.

While those European leaders have urged Mr Trump to stay in the deal, he has also received pressure from other allies to get rid of the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, delivered a prime-time speech Monday to declare that his government had acquired a trove of Iranian documents showing that the Iranians have lied about its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Analysts have questioned how revealing the documents Mr Netanyahu claimed to have really are, though. The hour-long presentation, which was partly in English, did not disclose much new information about Iran’s nuclear enrichment processes, those analysts said.

Mr Trump praised Mr Netanyahu’s disclosures, however, indicating that the Israeli leader had his ear to some degree.

The White House has also sought to bolster Mr Netanyahu’s claims, and said on Tuesday that the information he presented “adds new and compelling details about these efforts.”

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