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Zeleny presses Sanders on typo in Iran memo

CNN's Jeff Zeleny presses White House press secretary Sarah Sanders over claims that the White House's recent accusation that Iran has a clandestine nuclear weapons program was a typo.

Posted: May 2, 2018 12:17 PM
Updated: May 2, 2018 12:19 PM

A one-letter mistake on an official White House statement led to consternation and questions about official US policy toward Iran on Monday, and a quiet correction did little to quell the matter.

In the written statement sent to reporters around 7:30 p.m. ET, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declared that newly unveiled Israeli intelligence proved "Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program."

The declaration flew in the face of American intelligence determinations, which found Tehran froze its program following the Obama-era agreement to lift sanctions in exchange for curtailing its nuclear ambitions.

By 9:30 p.m. ET, the statement appeared differently online.

"Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program," the online version read, reiterating a long-established US position.

The White House did not issue a formal correction, but did offer an explanation.

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

Speaking during a White House news briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said the mistake was "noticed and immediately corrected."

"We think the biggest mistake was the Obama administration ever entering the deal that you referenced in the first place," she said.

The snafu came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dramatically presented on Monday a hoard of Iranian documents that he said proved the regime lied about its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

But analysts shrugged, saying Netanyahu's hour-long presentation in English offered little new information about Iran's program.

On Tuesday, the White House sought to bolster Netanyahu's position, saying the information "adds new and compelling details about these efforts."

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