US calms Israel's fears over Iran's atomic bomb capability

Tehran still a year away from being able to make a nuclear weapon, says Washington, lowering chance of pre-emptive Israeli strike.

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

WASHINGTON // The US has persuaded Israel that Iran would take a year or longer to build a nuclear weapon, dimming the prospects of a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, The New York Times said late yesterday. President Barack Obama's top adviser on nuclear issues, Gary Samore, was quoted in the daily's online edition as saying: "We think that they have roughly a year dash time," referred to the shortest time Iran would take to build a nuclear weapon, judging from its existing facilities and capacity to convert stocks of low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material.

Mr Samore said the US believed international inspectors would detect any move by toward "breakout", the moment it had enough material to make a nuclear weapon, within weeks, leaving the US and Israel ample time to craft a response. Israel has hinted in the past that it would attack Iranian nuclear facilities should the Islamic republic try to build an atomic bomb considered to be a direct threat to Israeli territory.

Israel believes Iran is only months away from such a scenario, while the US thinks it would take longer. Based on intelligence collected over the past year, the new US assessment is not clear on what problems Iran's uranium enrichment programme, which it insists is for peaceful purposes, is confronting. The New York Times said the lag could be due to poor centrifuge design, difficulty in obtaining components or accelerated Western efforts to sabotage the nuclear programme.