A report published this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) points to the possibility that Tehran has already obtained enough enriched uranium to make one atomic bomb.
According to the report, the IAEA believes that Iran has amassed 630kg of low enriched uranium, up from 480kg in late August. Nuclear experts believe this is enough to produce the weapons-grade material needed for a crude nuclear device similar in size to that which America used to destroy the city of Nagasaki at the end of World War II, The Times said.
In its report, the IAEA said that Iran was working hard roughly to double its number of operating centrifuges. According to The Times, European diplomats say that Tehran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year - and plans to install another 3,000 early next year.
According to the intelligence sources, an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would require at least tacit US cooperation because it would almost certainly involve Israeli warplanes flying through US-controlled airspace in Iraq.
'You don’t want Iran to get close'US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack addressed the IAEA report on Thursday, saying, “It’s concerning. This is a matter that will be taken up next week at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting.”
Asked if Tehran now had sufficient material to build a bomb, he suggested that there were different opinions, The Times reported. “Some said it was enough; others said it was not enough, but close,” said McCormack. “In any case, you don’t want Iran to get close.”
The Iranian nuclear issue is expected to be at the focus of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's meeting with US President George W. Bush in Washington at the beginning of next week. Olmert is also scheduled to meet with US Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The IAEA chief said last month that Iran is blocking his watchdog agency from verifying whether the nation has any ambitions for nuclear weaponry.
"I regret that we are still not in a position to achieve full clarity regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran," Mohamed ElBaradei told the UN General Assembly.
He urged Iran to do more to ensure "transparency," but emphasized the Vienna-based IAEA "does not in any way seek to pry into Iran's conventional or missile-related military activities."