Iran General NewsU.S. intelligence chief in Israel to discuss Iran

U.S. intelligence chief in Israel to discuss Iran

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ImageReuters: Mike McConnell, the director of U.S. national intelligence, is in Israel to hear its spymasters' arguments that Iran could obtain nuclear weapons within two years, Israeli officials said on Wednesday.

ImageJERUSALEM (Reuters) – Mike McConnell, the director of U.S. national intelligence, is in Israel to hear its spymasters' arguments that Iran could obtain nuclear weapons within two years, Israeli officials said on Wednesday.

Last year's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) found that Iran — which denies seeking the bomb — had shelved a military nuclear program in 2003 though it could still potentially produce warheads in the next decade.

The report was a blow to Israel, which is believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal and says its arch-foe's uranium enrichment projects could yield a first bomb by 2010.

Closing ranks on the issue could be key to authorizing any future military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities — an option both Israel and the United States have said is available should U.N. Security Council sanctions fail to rein in Tehran.

McConnell's visit came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Washington to confer with U.S. President George W. Bush about Iran and other regional security issues.

"He (McConnell) is here as part of our debate on how advanced the Iranian project is. It's a matter of comparing methods of gathering intelligence, as well as how to analyze it," an Israeli defense official said.

McConnell was slated to meet Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday before departing. The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv had no comment on the intelligence director's visit.

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