UK panel: Iran may be able to make nuclear bomb by 2015

 


Iran retains nuclear weapons ambitions and there is a "strong possibility" it could be in a position to quickly make a nuclear bomb by 2015, British lawmakers said on Sunday.

Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report that sanctions were unlikely to persuade Iran to halt work that could be aimed at building nuclear weapons and said a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities was also unlikely to work.

It urged Britain to press Washington to talk to Tehran directly about its nuclear programme, which Iran says is solely to generate power but which Washington alleges is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

"Based on the evidence we have received and our own visit to Iran, we believe its nuclear ambitions remain," said Mike Gapes, chairman of the committee which has held hearings with officials and experts and visited Iran last November.

Technological constraints were likely to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon, if that was its goal, in the near future, the committee's report said.

But Gapes, a member of the ruling Labour Party, said: "There is a strong possibility that it could establish a 'breakout' nuclear weapons capability by 2015."

A "breakout" capability meant "the ability to manufacture a nuclear device within a short period of time by virtue of its non-military nuclear technical capabilities and assets," the report said.

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on Monday on a resolution imposing a third round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Iran has ignored previous resolutions demanding it freeze its uranium enrichment programme, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.

A US intelligence estimate last December which concluded Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 has dampened international support for further sanctions.

The Foreign Affairs Committee said Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, saying that if it did so, it would be likely to lead to other states in the Middle East seeking to do the same.

It said current international sanctions were "not sufficiently robust to coax [Tehran] into suspending its enrichment" while future sanctions were "likely to remain ineffective".

"A military strike would be unlikely to succeed and could provoke an extremely violent backlash across the region," it said.

It recommended that the British government urge Washington to "change its policy and begin to engage directly with Iran on its nuclear programme".

Washington has said it is open to talks with Iran but says Tehran must give up uranium enrichment first - a condition the committee said Tehran was very unlikely to accept. 
(Reuters)
 
 
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