Sunday, April 16, 2006

U.S. intelligence chief: Iran far from bomb

While the world is expressing its concern over Iran's progress toward a bomb, and Tehran itself is issuing threatening and firm declarations, the American intelligence's assessment regarding the Islamic republic's distance from nuclear weapons has not changed.

Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte estimates that in spite of Iran's declaration last week that it has managed to enrich uranium, Tehran will have a bomb within four to nine years. READ MORE

In a Time Magazine interview, Negroponte was asked whether the intelligence information on Iran's nuclear capability is more reliable than the information the Americans had on the eve of the invasion to Iraq on March 2003.

The intelligence is good and solid, he said, adding that the since the Iraq invasion the U.S. has been trying to build defense means.

One must build different ways and double check and one must establish teams on the field to build different theories and try to prove the same facts, he added.

Negroponte, 66, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and then to Iraq, was chosen by Bush to head U.S. national intelligence, and then to set up an organization for coordination of the intelligence flowing between various intelligence organizations, as part of the lessons from September 11 2001.

Addressing the date which Iran could become a nuclear weapon, Negroponte said: "The assessment has been somewhere at the beginning of the next decade, between 2010 (and) 2015. This remains the assessment. Intelligence that was obtained from Iran showed that they may have been trying to conceptualize how to adapt one of their missiles to a nuclear weapon. It is cause for concern."

Negroponte also tried to show confidence in the American intelligence over Iranian developments. "Certainly, we know where the key installations are, the ones that have been monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency – Isfahan and Natanz. Are there others that we're not aware of at all? You don't know what you don't know."

Experts: Iran expanding atomic sites

New satellite images released by an American research institute found that Iran has expanded its uranium conversion facility in the Isfahan city region, and has fortified the underground uranium enrichment facility in Natanz against aerial bombing.

The ISIS research facility released an announcement to the press that Iran is increasing its nuclear activity. In satellite images attached to the statement, experts claimed that Iran built a new access tunnel to the Isfahan facility, where uranium is being converted into gas as part of the enrichment process.

Experts claimed that up to February, the facility has only two entrances, and that the new entrance shows underground activity which is new in the facility, or an expansion of current activities, David Albright, of ISIS, and a former U.N. weapons inspector, said.