Tehran moving closer to nuclear weapons capacity senior U.S. diplomat warns | VailDaily.com

Tehran moving closer to nuclear weapons capacity senior U.S. diplomat warns

VIENNA, Austria – There is no time for complacency on Iran because U.S. intelligence suggests it could have the capability to produce a nuclear bomb as early as 2010, a senior U.S. diplomat said Monday.”Our assessment … the assessment from our intelligence community, is that the soonest they could produce a nuclear weapon would be the beginning of next decade, 2010 to 2015,” said Gregory L. Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.Schulte, who spoke at an event sponsored by the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, largely reiterated comments made by U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte in June.”That gives us some time, but we are 2006 now, that’s four years away. So that gives us time for diplomacy, but it doesn’t give us time for complacency.”Schulte said the process was complicated, and that there were many uncertainties that must be taken into consideration, including how much foreign assistance Iran gets, how successful it would be in spinning centrifuges – the key process in making enriched uranium – and how important possessing such weapons is to Iran’s political leadership.At the moment, it appeared the Iranian leadership was giving this the “absolute highest priority,” he said.”Clearly at this point they’re working to understand how to successfully conduct enrichment,” Schulte said. “They’ve shown on a couple of occasions that they can enrich, but what they have to show is they can do this on a sustained and reliable basis, and it’s not apparent that they are there yet.”In prepared remarks prior to taking questions from the audience, Schulte said the United States’ goal was to secure a diplomatic solution, and that the positive choice for Iran’s leaders would be to cooperate with the international community and “to take credible steps to assure the world that their nuclear program is solely peaceful.”In a symbolic rebuke to Tehran, the U.N. nuclear agency last week denied it technical help in building a plutonium-producing reactor, but left room for a renew its request.

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