Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build an atomic weapon within two weeks and has, “in a certain way,” already reached the point of no return in its nuclear program, a former senior International Atomic Energy Association official said Monday.
“I believe that if certain arrangements are done, it could even go down to two weeks. So there are a lot of concerns out there that Iran can hopefully now address, in this new phase, both at the P5+1 [talks between Tehran and six world powers] and with the IAEA,” a report released last week by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which stated Iran could muster enough uranium for a bomb by converting all of its 20-percent enriched stockpile within 1 to 1.6 monthsonfirming
Earlier on Monday,IAEA Director Yukiya Amano met in Vienna with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator, ahead of two days of technical talks between Iranian representatives and the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Amano described his meeting as important in addressing “the outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program.”
“But you still don’t have a nuclear weapon,” Heinonen added. Preparing the highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb would take another month or two, “assuming that someone has all the knowledge.” After that, assembling an actual nuclear weapon that can be delivered with a ballistic missile would take perhaps another year, he said.
Israel is committed to ensuring Iran does not get nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated Monday, even as Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency held their first high-level meeting since the June election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“I heard Iranian officials define the last round of talks as ‘useful and constructive,’” Netanyahu said. “Well, I am sure that for the Iranians they were useful and constructive, because they just win time to continue their enrichment program to create fissile material for nuclear weapons.”
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that the focus on Iran’s concession to cease enrichment of uranium to 20% was cosmetic.
Because of the efficiency of the new centrifuges, uranium enriched to just 3.5% – the heaviest lift in the enrichment process – could be quickly enriched further into weapons grade uranium in roughly eight to 10 weeks.
The production of weapons-grade uranium, enriched beyond 90%, is now a matter of the Iranian government choosing to do so, Heinonen said.
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke over the phone on Monday to discuss two diplomatic fronts topping America's foreign policy agenda: negotiations over the Iranian nuclear crisis and ongoing talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
In a statement from the White House, the press secretary said the two leaders also discussed other regional issues, such as the civil war in Syria.
The call comes shortly after Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz visited the US to meet with Vice President Biden and to engage in a round of strategic dialogue with officials at the US Department of State. Also last week, Netanyahu met to discuss these same twin issues with Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome.
The Palestinian Authority demands that any land swap with Israel as part of a peace deal not exceed 1.9 percent of the West Bank, less than half of the land necessary to incorporate the lion’s share of settlers, according to details leaked to Channel 2 by a disgruntled Palestinian official on Sunday.
According to the report, the Palestinians are also insisting that they gain control over water, and control at their sides of the Dead Sea and border crossings; that a Palestinian state be able to sign agreements with other states without Israeli intervention; that Israel release all Palestinian prisoners it holds; and that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants be granted the right to choose to live in Israel or the Palestinian territories as part of a final agreement.
The report made no mention of Israel’s position on these issues, but the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been wary of a Palestinian state exercising full sovereign powers that might threaten Israeli security, and all Israeli governments have rejected the possibility of anything other than a token influx of Palestinian refugees, for fear of remaking the demographic balance of the Jewish state.