Iran Nuclear Threat not Imminent, says US

Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) The US has told Israel that Iran is not a direct nuclear threat in near future, citing evidence of continuing troubles inside Tehran's atomic programme.

According to American officials, it would take roughly a year, and perhaps longer, for Iran to complete what one senior official called a "dash" for a nuclear weapon, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Obama administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against Iran's nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats.

"We think that they have roughly a year dash time," said Gary Samore, US President Barack Obama's top adviser on nuclear issues, referring to how long it would take the Iranians to convert nuclear material into a working weapon.

"A year is a very long period of time," the paper quoted Samore as saying.

Israeli intelligence officials had argued that Iran could complete nuclear bomb in months, while American agencies have come to believe in the past year that the timeline was longer.

A critical question has been the time it would take for Tehran to convert existing stocks of low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material, a process commonly known as 'breakout'.

Officials said the US believed international inspectors would detect an Iranian move toward breakout, within weeks, leaving a considerable amount of time for America and Israel to consider military strikes.

The American assessments are based on intelligence collected over the past year, as well as reports from international inspectors. It is unclear whether the problems that Iran has had enriching uranium are the result of poor centrifuge design, difficulty in obtaining components or accelerated Western efforts to sabotage the nuclear programme.

Now, American and Israeli officials believe breakout is unlikely anytime soon.


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Title: Iran Nuclear Threat not Imminent, says US

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