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Ex-U.N. inspector sees no Iran atom bomb before 2013

06 October 2011 [13:38] - TODAY.AZ
Iran is unlikely to be able to make atomic bombs before 2013, a former senior official of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday, dismissing suggestions it could happen in months if Tehran decided to pursue such mass-destruction weaponry, Reuters reported.

Olli Heinonen, head of U.N. safeguards inspections worldwide until last year, said he believed Iran would need a couple of years to develop a capability to manufacture nuclear-armed missiles, based on what is now known about its activities.

"Then you still have to build them and that will take time. I don't think it is immediate," Heinonen said. "But Iran certainly has the elements in place and has built up its capabilities."

Heinonen, now a senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said Iran was on the "way to no good" with its nuclear work but it did not appear to have taken a political decision yet to actually build bombs.

"Maybe by the end of next year they might have enough material to do it but then to turn it into weapon-grade level (in view of the low performance of its current IR-1 centrifuge machines) takes another half year at least," Heinonen said when asked about a timeline for any Iranian weapons bid.

Iranians work in all three areas - enrichment, nuclear device design and a missile system to deliver - and in all areas probably progress is slow but any country need to have all of them in place in order to have the weapon, the former UN official said.

"I think they are now focusing on having the most important part, the fissile material, available if they want to do it," Heinonen added.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity and producing isotopes to treat medical patients.

The United Nations has imposed four rounds of Security Council sanctions over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials for an atomic bomb.

Tehran's refusal to stop has provoked four rounds of U.N. sanctions and tighter U.S. and European Union restrictions.


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