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. US intelligence says Iran 10 years away from nuclear bomb: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) Aug 02, 2005
Iran is some 10 years away from manufacturing highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear device, The Washington Post said Tuesday quoting officials with access to a new intelligence review.

Ordered by the National Intelligence Council in January, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran doubles the amount of time the White House believes Iran is away from building a nuclear weapon from five years in the previous estimate in 2001, the daily said.

There was no immediate comment on the report from National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, whose office oversees the National Intelligence Council.

A senior intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP, "It is the judgement of the intelligence community that left to its own devices Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons."

According to the Post, however, there were credible indicators that Iran's military was conducting clandestine work, but no information linking it directly to a nuclear weapons program.

The estimate also expresses uncertainty about whether Iran's ruling clerics have made a decision to build a nuclear arsenal, although it agrees that, left to its own devices, Iran would pursue the nuclear weapons path.

On Iran's political future, the estimate is unsure whether Iran's ruling clerics would still be in power by the time the country is capable of producing fissile material.

The US administration keeps "hoping the mullahs will leave before Iran gets a nuclear weapons capability," said a US official familiar with the intelligence review.

Iran on Monday informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it would soon resume uranium ore conversion, a move that risks plunging talks with the European Union into crisis and exposing Tehran to UN Security Council action.

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