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ARABS-ISRAEL - Jan 24 - Iran On Brink Of Becoming Nuclear.

Addressing the Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, the chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency Meir Dagan says arch-foe Iran was on the brink of enriching uranium, a process key to building a nuclear bomb. He said: The assessment is that by the end of 2005 the Iranians will reach the point of no-return from the technological perspective of creating a uranium-enrichment capability". Iran, which says its nuclear programme is for energy needs only, agreed in November to suspend uranium enrichment under a EU-brokered deal. Israel and the US suspect Iran of buying time while it covertly seeks the bomb. Dagan said: The Iranians are striving to secure from the Europeans an agreement that would allow them to continue enriching uranium, even on an intensified level, under supervision and with guarantees. The moment that you have the technology for enrichment, you are home free", adding that from that point it would take Iran around two years to manufacture nuclear weapons. Believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, Israel has hinted it could hit Iran militarily to stop it getting the bomb. An Israeli air strike on the Iraqi reactor at Osiraq in 1981 dealt a severe blow to Saddam Hussain's nuclear programme. Iran - and any Israeli pre-emption - are core concerns for US Pres Bush in his second term in office. "If, in fact, the Israelis become convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards", US Vice-President Dick Cheney said last week. But Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres sounded a note of caution, saying the Jewish state should defer to its US ally. Peres predicted Washington would exhaust diplomatic options for getting Iran to come clean on its nuclear programme, noting that unlike Saddam-era Iraq, the Islamic republic had dispersed its reactors, making a military strike difficult. Peres said: We must recognise our limitations". Meanwhile, Iran may allow UN inspectors back into a military base where Washington says tests linked to a covert atomic weapons programme could have taken place, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying on Jan 24. After several months of delay, Iran earlier this month let a team from the UN's IAEA take environmental samples at the Parchin military base southeast of Tehran. But IAEA inspectors did not get the full access to the site they wanted and would like to return to take further samples, diplomats in Vienna said. Asked whether the inspectors would be allowed back into Parchin, Hussain Mousavian, one of Iran's chief nuclear negotiators, said: I cannot rule this out. The IAEA had earlier asked to inspect two parts of the Parchin complex but only visited one part", the website of the state-owned Iran daily newspaper quoted him as saying. Iranian officials had previously said that the IAEA inspectors would not be allowed to enter any buildings at Parchin and could only take samples from open areas. Iranian officials have expressed confidence that the Parchin samples will disprove allegations that Iran had been conducting research there linked to "weaponisation".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jan 29, 2005
Words:538
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