'New York Times': 'Iran has enough info for atom bomb'

Iran has enough info fo

Ahmadinejad big face 248.88 (photo credit: )
Ahmadinejad big face 248.88
(photo credit: )
A confidential report compiled by senior officials in the UN nuclear watchdog claims Iran already has enough knowledge to build a nuclear bomb, The New York Times reported on Sunday. According to the report, senior staff members of the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in an analysis that Teheran has acquired "sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device," based on highly-enriched uranium. The Times added that the report, titled "Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program," emphasized in its introduction that its conclusions were "'tentative and subject to further confirmation of the evidence,' which it says came from intelligence agencies and its own investigations." Nevertheless, the paper went on to say that the report's conclusions, as described by top European officials, "go well beyond the public positions taken by several governments, including the United States." A December 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate said Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. However, with the new report, the IAEA has apparently joined those countries, including Israel, disagreeing with the NIE findings. The agency's analysis also reportedly says that Iran "most likely" obtained the needed information for designing and building an implosion bomb "from external sources" and then adapted the information to its own needs. Meanwhile, US National Security advisor Gen. Jim Jones on Sunday denied a NY Times report that due to new intelligence regarding Iran's nuclear program, the US would be reassessing its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. "We stand by the reports that we put out. You're going to get a lot of speculation," Jones told CNN on Sunday. The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, speaking at a news conference in Teheran with Iran's top nuclear official, said Sunday there was a "shifting of gears" in Iran's confrontation with the West towards more cooperation and transparency, and he announced that international inspectors would visit Teheran's newly revealed uranium enrichment site on October 25. His agency "has no concrete proof of an ongoing weapons program in Iran." But the IAEA has "concerns about Iran's future intentions," he said. "I see that we are at a critical moment. I see that we are shifting gears from confrontation into transparency and cooperation," said ElBaradei. His visit followed a week of intense diplomatic activity surrounding Iran's nuclear program, set off by the revelation that Teheran had been secretly constructing a new uranium enrichment plant just north of the holy city of Qom. On Thursday, Iran and six world powers put nuclear talks back on track at a landmark session in Geneva that included the highest-level bilateral contact with the US in years. ElBaradei arrived Saturday to set up the UN inspection of the Qom facility. The revelation of the plant heightened suspicion that Teheran is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for developing weapons. Iran denies that and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. "It is important for us to send our inspectors to do a comprehensive verification of that facility, to assure ourselves that it is a facility that is built for peaceful purposes," ElBaradei said, seated beside Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear agency. "We agreed that our inspectors would come here on the 25th of October to do the inspection and to go to Qom and I hope and I trust that Iran will be as transparent with our inspectors team as possible." The US ambassador to the United Nations said the permanent members of the UN Security Council are studying options for more sanctions if Iran does not prove its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes only. Ambassador Susan Rice, speaking on NBC TV's Meet the Press, also cautioned that Iran had a "finite period" to completely open its nuclear program to international inspections. She refused to set a deadline. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told ElBaradei that Iran's cooperation with the agency has left no ambiguity over Teheran's nuclear activities. "Outstanding issues were resolved due to good cooperation between Iran and the agency," state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "Today, there are no ambiguous issues left." But the IAEA says there are still outstanding issues that Iran needs to clarify, including alleged studies by Iran on high explosives and a missile delivery system for a nuclear warhead. Late last month, Obama and the leaders of France and Britain accused Iran of keeping the construction hidden from the world for years. Obama said Iran's actions "raised grave doubts" about its promise to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only. Uranium enrichment can be used in the process of producing both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. "As I have said many times and I continue to say today, the agency has no complete proof that there is an ongoing weapons program in Iran," ElBaradei said. "There are allegations that Iran has conducted weaponization studies. However these allegations we are still looking into and we are looking to Iran to help us clarify," he added. Iranian officials argue that under IAEA safeguard rules, a member nation is required to inform the UN agency about the existence of a nuclear facility six months before introducing nuclear material into the machines. Iran says the new facility won't be operational for 18 months, and so it has not violated any IAEA requirements. Salehi said the IAEA inspection of the Qom facility will be within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguard regulations. "We announced the facility earlier than we were required to do... The inspection will take place within the safeguard agreements," Salehi said. However, the IAEA has said that Iran was obliged to notify it under the Additional Protocol to the NPT when it begins design of a new nuclear facility. "We disagree with the interpretation of Iran. ... Iran should have informed the IAEA the day it decided to construct the facility," ElBaradei said. Suspicion that Iran's newly revealed nuclear site was meant for military purposes was heightened by its location, at least partly inside a mountain and next to a military base. Iran has said it built the facility to protect it from a potential aerial bombing and to ensure continuity of its nuclear activities in case of an attack. ElBaradei also discussed a plan to allow Russia to take some of Iran's processed uranium and enrich it to higher levels to fuel a research reactor in Teheran. He said ºthere would be a meeting October 19 in Vienna with Iran, the US, France and Russia to discuss the details of that agreement. Amir Mizroch contributed to this report.