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Iran nuclear armed in two years: Israel

(The Australian) IN a tough assessment of the military challenges confronting the country, Israel’s military intelligence branch estimated yesterday that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within two years. The analysts predicted Iran would cross a technological threshold within six months to a year to full know-how regarding production of nuclear weapons. The first such weapon could be in Tehran’s possession as early as mid-2009 but it would more likely be a year or two later, they said. The prediction differs from US intelligence which suggested Iran would attain nuclear capability within three to six years. The Israeli analysts gave little chance of the Islamic regime in Tehran being toppled from within, noting that huge oil revenue enabled it to ensure domestic peace despite widespread dissatisfaction with the regime. International pressure and sanctions could delay Iran’s program and oblige Tehran to compromise, the assessment said. Technological difficulties Iran is having with the atomic program could also slow it up. The last-resort option, a military strike, could significantly set back Iran’s efforts despite the extensive safeguarding of nuclear facilities it has done, the assessment said. Israeli officials say the chances of a US strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities are steadily diminishing. An Israeli strike remains on the table, although its likelihood is far from certain. Israeli military intelligence has set up a new department charged with translating intelligence into firm targets for such a strike. This is in addition to the efforts of the Israeli air force, which has its own department to process intelligence and identify targets. The analysts said they saw no near-term danger of Iran using nuclear weapons against Israel despite repeated calls by its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to ”wipe Israel off the map”. But Jerusalem fears that possession of such weapons would increase the readiness of a more confident Tehran to openly support terror strikes against Israel. A senior Iranian official yesterday said Iran was producing the centrifuges it needed to enrich uranium and that neither sanctions nor military action could derail the program. ”Iran’s nuclear technology is native and it cannot be eliminated,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, international affairs adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. ”Any possible military attack cannot destroy it.” The deputy chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, arrived in Tehran yesterday seeking to shape a plan to resolve outstanding issues over Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA delegation he is heading will meet Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA. Iranian officials said Mr Heinonen would not be inspecting any nuclear sites, such as at Natanz in central Iran where uranium enrichment is done. A US think tank reported this week that commercial satellite imagery indicated Iran was tunnelling into a mountain near the Natanz complex, possibly to protect the facility against air attack.

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July 12, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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