Report: Iran Testing Key Nuclear Bomb Component


iran-nuclear-facilityIran is set to test a key component aimed at developing a nuclear weapon, The Times of London reports today, citing secret intelligence documents related to Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

According to the documents cited in the report, which foreign intelligence agencies date to early 2007, Tehran had planned to test a neutron initiator, the component which triggers the explosion in a nuclear weapon.

The document revealed in the The Times of London report described the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which experts said had no possible use other than in a nuclear weapon.

Experts also mentioned to the British newspaper that Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint.

“Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, there is no civil application,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, told The Times of London, adding that the document was “a very strong indicator of weapons work.”

According to today’s report, a top source at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that the evidence had been passed to the UN?s nuclear watchdog.

Responding to The Times’ findings, an Israeli government spokesperson said that Israel was “increasingly concerned about the state of the Iranian nuclear program and the real intentions that may lie behind it.”

Publication of the nuclear documents will increase pressure for tougher UN sanctions against Iran, which are due to be discussed this week. But the latest leaks in a long series of allegations against Iran will also be seized on by hawks in Israel and the US, who support a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities before the country can build its first warhead.

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told The Times that the “most shattering conclusion is that, if this was an effort that began in 2007, it could be a casus belli. If Iran is working on weapons, it means there is no diplomatic solution.”

“Is this the smoking gun? That’s the question people should be asking. It looks like the smoking gun. This is smoking uranium,” Fitzpatrick added.

On Shabbos, Israeli officials said The United Nations Security Council could launch a fourth round of deliberations regarding sanctions on Iran as early as January.

The United States, Great Britain, Germany and France will likely file a first draft to the Council next month, Israeli foreign policy officials and European and American diplomats told Haaretz.

Israeli officials’ intensive talks with their Russian counterparts have led them to believe that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is more willing than ever before to advance additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Israeli and European authorities believe Russia’s support virtually guarantees that new sanctions may be put in place. According to a senior Israeli official, “If Russia moves toward sanctions, the Chinese won’t want to be left standing alone, and will have no other choice but to join as well.”

Nonetheless, Israel is interested in drafting an alternative plan in case the Security Council debates do not progress.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in closed-door meetings that an effective sanctions package can be assembled through U.S.-EU cooperation, bolstered with assistance from regional powers like Japan and South Korea.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Saturday that his government is willing to adopt the UN recommendation and exchange most of its stock of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods to power what it calls its research reactor, but only in keeping with its own timetable.

“We suggested in the first phase we give you 400 kilograms of 3.5-percent enriched uranium and you give us the equivalent in 20 percent uranium,” the Associated Press quoted Mottaki as telling reporters at a regional security conference in Bahrain.

Mottaki said Iran would follow its own timetable and “mechanism,” and suggested that the exchanges of uranium for fuel take place on Iran’s Kish Island in the Persian Gulf.

{Times of London/Haaretz/yair Israel}