US intelligence chiefs say Iran cant build nukes yet

March 12th, 2009 - 5:20 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 12 (ANI): Disputing a claim by an Israeli official that Iran is capable of making a nuclear bomb, two top US intelligence officials have said that Teheran does not yet have the highly enriched uranium it needs to make a nuclear warhead.

Meanwhile, a key Security Council committee has reported that Iran had violated the UN sanctions by trying to send weapons-related material to Syria on a cargo ship now docked in Cyprus.

US National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. General Michael Maples were quoted by CBS News as saying on Tuesday that Iran has only low-enriched uranium, which would need to be refined into highly enriched uranium before it can fuel a warhead.

Neither of the two officials said there were indications that refining has occurred. Their comments disputed a claim made last weekend by Israels top intelligence military official, who said Iran has crossed a technical threshold and is now capable of producing atomic weapons.

The claim made by Israeli Major General Amos Yadlin runs counter to estimates by US intelligence that the earliest Iran could produce a weapon is 2010, with some analysts saying it is more likely to be in 2015.

Maples said the United States and Israel are interpreting the same facts, but arriving at different conclusions.

The Israelis are far more concerned about it, Maples told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The status of Irans nuclear program has been the subject of conflicting public statements by top military and intelligence officials recently in the wake of UN revelations that Iran has more low-enriched uranium than previously thought.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen differed over Irans capability. While Mullen said Iran has sufficient fission material for a bomb, Gates insisted theyre not close to a weapon at this point. (ANI)

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