Date registered: Aug 2002
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U.S. report: Iran stopped nuclear weapons work in 2003
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015, a U.S. intelligence report says.
A declassified summary of the latest National Intelligence Estimate found with "high confidence" that the Islamic republic stopped an effort to develop nuclear weapons in the fall of 2003.
The estimate is less severe than a 2005 report that judged the Iranian leadership was "determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure."
But the latest report says Iran -- which declared its ability to produced enriched uranium for a civilian energy program in 2006 -- could reverse that decision and eventually produce a nuclear weapon if it wanted to do so.
Enriched uranium at low concentrations can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, but much higher concentrations are needed to yield a nuclear explosion.
"We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely," the report says. A more likely time frame for that production is between 2010 and 2015, it concludes.
Iran has insisted its nuclear program is strictly aimed at producing electricity, and the country has refused the U.N. Security Council's demand to halt its enrichment program.
Monday's report represents the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies. It suggests that a combination of "threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige and goals for regional influence in other ways," could persuade the Iranian leadership to continue its suspension of nuclear weapons research.
Available intelligence suggests the Iranian leadership is guided "by a cost-benefit approach," not a headlong rush to develop a bomb, the report concludes.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has reported that Iran is cooperating with inspectors by providing access to declared nuclear material, documents and facilities. However, the agency also said Iran is withholding information in other areas, and as a result, the IAEA's knowledge about the status of the program is "diminishing."
Iran says its uranium enrichment work is allowed under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Security Council has passed two rounds of sanctions against Tehran, but Washington missed its goal of reaching consensus on tighter restrictions by the end of November, the State Department said last week.
U.S. National Security adviser Stephen Hadley expressed hope after Monday's announcement, but he said Iran remains a serious threat.
"The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically -- without the use of force -- as the administration has been trying to do," Hadley said in a statement.
"But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem."
The report comes amid widespread accusations that the Bush administration is attempting to maneuver the United States into a conflict with Iran, which it accuses of meddling in the war in Iraq. In October, the United States designated elements of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as supporters of terrorism.
NIEs examine current capabilities and vulnerabilities and, perhaps more importantly, consider future developments. Policymakers usually request the estimates, but the intelligence community also can initiate them. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend
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