Iran three years away from nuclear bomb: Israel media

Date: 07-10-07

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Iran could have a nuclear capacity by 2009 but would not be able to produce operational nuclear weapons for three or four years, Israeli intelligence officials said according to media here on Tuesday.

The officials, quoted by several military correspondents, also estimated that it was possible that several "targets" in Iran would be vulnerable to an Israeli attack.

Public radio said that a special unit headed by a senior officer had been set up to coordinate all information gathered by Israeli intelligence services with the aim of deciding on potential targets in Iran. It did not elaborate.

Iran has repeatedly denied that its programme of uranium enrichment is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, and says its intentions are purely peaceful and are to produce nuclear fuel to generate power for a growing population.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed the European Union earlier on Tuesday for what he termed its appeasement attitude over Iran's nuclear programme.

"My feeling when I hear the Europeans in Brussels, and also here during the visit of (Italian prime minister) Romano Prodi, is that they want to make Israel believe it should accept a peaceful nuclear programme by Iran," he said.

On Monday after meeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, Prodi said both countries were determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"Iran cannot and should not have a military nuclear capacity," he said.

Olmert said that Israel "will never accept that a country that threatens to destroy the state of Israel will one day possess a nuclear weapon, but I have confidence in the international efforts."

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, albeit undeclared, with an estimated 200 warheads.

Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment has resulted in the UN Security Council adopting two sets of sanctions against Iran.


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