German intel denies Iran nuclear report

Stern article quotes German intelligence officials as saying Teheran could test bomb within 6 months.

Ahmadinejad Natanz 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad Natanz 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
BERLIN - Iran has the ability to build and test a nuclear weapon within six months, the Stern newsweekly's online edition on Wednesday quoted an unidentified agent at Germany's foreign intelligence service (BND) as saying. "If they wanted to, they could detonate an atomic bomb in a half a year's time," a BND official said, according to the report. Agency experts told the magazine Iran could test a device underground, as North Korea has done. While federal court decisions in January and May involving illegal German-Iranian trade with respect to Teheran's nuclear weapons program cited BND expert opinions saying the Islamic republic has an active nuclear weapons program, the Stern article highlighted the accelerated pace of Iran's efforts to become a nuclear power. "No one would have believed it a few years ago," a BND expert told the magazine. But there appears to be conflicting reports from BND officials. A BND spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that "we are not talking about months, but years." He said a six-month threshold is a "shortened" period that does not correspond with the BND's assessment of Teheran's atomic bomb program. The spokesman added that Iran could reach nuclear weapons capability within a "four-to-seven-year" period. Asked if the BND is cooperating with Israeli intelligence, the spokesman declined to comment. According to observers, Germany's longstanding business and political relations with the Islamic republic provide intelligence gathering opportunities. However, the Stern report said mid-level German firms are supplying Iran with technology and components to build ballistic missiles, and that Iran is intensively building missiles that can be armed with nuclear warheads. According to the newsweekly, German companies are working with Said Mohammad Hosseinian, who is coordinating Iran's efforts to acquire components that it cannot purchase legally. The federal republic conducted roughly €4 billion in commerce with Iran in 2008, and is its largest European Union trade partner. Germany has faced criticism for its lax export control system, and its refusal to crack down on the flourishing trade relationship with Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a June 5 report that Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium had jumped 33 percent since a report by the UN agency on February 19, which had showed a 20% increase over the previous quarter. Iran had also installed 31% more centrifuges for enriching uranium, bringing the total to 7,221. Bloomberg contributed to this report.