The Times: IRAN is just months away from having the capability to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb, Western diplomatic sources said yesterday.
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor
IRAN is just months away from having the capability to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb, Western diplomatic sources said yesterday.
Through diplomatic man-oeuvring, Tehran had bought time to complete its research on constructing a centrifuge system to produce highly enriched uranium, the sources told The Times.
The Iranians had clearly chosen that track for developing bomb-grade material over creating plutonium from its nuclear reactor facility at Bushehr, they said. Iran appears to be further advanced in acquiring the relevant nuclear technology than we had initially thought, said one British official.
The new sense of concern about Irans nuclear intentions was confirmed by British diplomatic sources.
Although there have been no recent major discoveries of clandestine nuclear research work, British officials said there were newly formed judgments about what Iran was doing, and this had led to the renewed urgency. The evidence was not being made public at this stage, the sources said. New steps are to be taken by Britain and other European countries to persuade Iran to give up its suspected ambition to develop nuclear weapons.
Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany, are to meet with a delegation from Tehran soon. Its possible that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, will make a further visit to the Iranian capital to add impetus to the diplomatic efforts which have been under way for months, although no date has been fixed.
The IAEA currently has inspectors in Iran, monitoring the Iranian research and development programme which includes constructing thousands of centrifuges for the purpose of enriching uranium.
Iran, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is entitled to develop ways of enriching uranium, provided it is solely for civilian purposes. Tehran insists that it is engaged in a civilian research programme but Washington has accused Tehran of wanting to develop nuclear weapons.
IAEA sources said that the inspectors were watching every move being made by the Iranians and had no evidence yet of an intention to divert material for a nuclear bomb.
Between now and September, there will be a series of choreographed events which will dictate whether Iran is referred to the United Nations Security Council for breaching the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The officials from Britain, France and Germany will meet in the next few weeks, probably in one of the three European countries. Then, next month, the IAEA will publish another report on its findings at the Iranian nuclear sites and in September the IAEA board will hold a full meeting.