AP: The head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog warned in comments published Friday that Iran is one of several countries on the "path" to possessing the ingredients for making a nuclear weapon.
The Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — The head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog warned in comments published Friday that Iran is one of several countries on the "path" to possessing the ingredients for making a nuclear weapon.
Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency, was quoted in the Friday edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily as saying that there is "a whole list of countries that posses the ingredients to assemble an atomic weapon in a matter of a few months, that possess fissile material or the technical means to create it."
"Iran is also on this path," the paper quoted El-Baradei as saying.
He went on to say that "we live in a world in which atomic weapons promise power and prestige," noting that Iran's desire to possess a nuclear weapon is a product of "an underlying feeling of insecurity and the desire to be recognized as a regional power."
As a result, El-Baradei urged addressing the issue in the course of negotiations about security for the greater Middle East.
The United States and its allies allege Iran wants to develop its uranium enrichment program to make nuclear weapons. But oil-rich Iran insists it only wants to make nuclear fuel and IAEA oversight and inspections of its known enrichment program has not come up with any evidence that contradicts that.
Israel says the Islamic Republic could have enough nuclear material to make its first bomb within a year. The U.S. estimates Tehran is at least two years away from that stage.
But David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security closely tracks suspect secret proliferators has said Tehran could reach weapons capacity in as little as six months through uranium enrichment.
An IAEA report drawn up for an IAEA board meeting that ended Thursday says that Tehran has increased the number of centrifuges used to process uranium to nearly 4,000 from 3,000 just a few months ago.
To date, Iran has produced nearly 1,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium, said the report — close to what Albright says is the 1,500-pound minimum needed to produce the 45-60 pounds needed for a simple nuclear bomb under optimal conditions.