CIA: Iran advanced in nuke program

Evidence gathered from stolen laptop; Teheran rejects uranium compromise.

iran nuke plant 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
iran nuke plant 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
American intelligence believe that Iran has advanced on its march toward development of nuclear weapons, a major US newspaper reported Sunday. The newspaper The New York Times said that the CIA passed intelligence to the International Atomic Energy Committee that had been recovered from a computer stolen from a top Iranian official. The documents contained descriptions of experiments and blueprints of Iranian nuclear facilities. The US intelligence agency claimed that this new information was the strongest evidence yet that Iran is trying to develop a compact nuclear warhead to fit atop its lauded Shahab missile, which can reach Israel. Speaking recently about Iran's nuclear development, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz said that "it can present an existential threat. Iran is determined to obtain nuclear weapons because that is in its national interest. I'm convinced that the level of international pressure that is applied, and that will be applied, can slow down this process, but I doubt it can stop it. The State of Israel doesn't need to lead any campaign against Iran. The Iranian problem is not an Israeli problem. From our perspective, we need to do all that is necessary so that if a threat materializes, we will be able to deal with it, and there are tools in order to do so." Iran on Sunday denied the report about the country's alleged effort to design a nuclear warhead. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters that US information showing a concerted effort by Iran to design a nuclear warhead based on the contents of what was retrieved from a stolen Iranian laptop was "rubbish." "This is only a rubbish scenario introduced to affect the Nov. 24 meeting of the board of governors of the agency," Asefi said. "The case just led to joking among our colleagues here. We do not handle our confidential affairs on laptops." Teheran rebuffed Saturday the compromise agreement that was developed by western nations through which Iran would be able to continue with nuclear power development, but with the actual enrichment of uranium taking place in Russia. The head of Iran's nuclear agency ruled out a compromise proposal that uranium enrichment for his country's controversial nuclear program be carried out in Russia, saying Saturday that enrichment must be done in Iran. Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who heads the country's nuclear agency, said Iran was open to other proposals, pointing to an earlier Iranian idea that other countries participate in the enrichment process on Iranian soil as a guarantee that the program is used only for peaceful purposes. "What is important for us is that we be entrusted to carry out enrichment in Iran. As for participation by other countries in Iran's uranium enrichment program, we will consider it if there is any proposals," he said. But, when asked if Tehran would agree to carrying out enrichment abroad, Aghazadeh said, "Iran's nuclear fuel will be produced inside Iran." In Vienna on Friday, a diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that a position paper entitled "Elements of a Long-Term Solution" had been passed on to the Russians about a week ago. Under the reported compromise, Iran would be allowed to do the conversion work, but the enrichment would be done in Russia - an arrangement that theoretically would deny Iran the capacity to make fuel for nuclear weapons. The IAEA on November 24 plans to discuss whether to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions connected to its nuclear program. An agreement before then could avert a vote and likely avoid straining relations between Russia and the United States, both of which have veto power on the Security Council.