El Baradei: Iran could make a nuclear weapon in 6 months
Published: Tuesday, 24 June, 2008 @ 8:39 PM in Beirut (GMT+2)
Beirut , Lebanon- The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei sounded an alarm when he said Iran could create a nuclear weapon in six months.
"If Iran wants to turn to the production of nuclear weapons, it must leave the NPT, expel the IAEA inspectors, and then it would need at least, considering the number of centrifuges and the quantity of uranium Iran has...It would need at least six months to one year," El Baradei said.
"Therefore, Iran will not be able to reach the point where we would wake up one morning to an Iran with a nuclear weapon," he said.
His interviewer then asked "If Iran decides today to expel the IAEA from the country, it will need six months to produce [nuclear] weapons?"
The IAEA chief answered, "It would need this period to produce a weapon, and to obtain highly-enriched uranium in sufficient quantities for a single nuclear weapon."
The El Baradei interview was conducted one day after reports emerged of a large-scale military exercise by Israel.
U.S. officials said they thought the Israeli exercises were meant to warn Iran of Israel's abilities to hit its nuclear sites.
El Baradei also warned that he will resign as chief of the UN nuclear agency if Iran is attacked by any country.
"I always think of resigning in the event of a military strike...If military force is used, I would conclude that there is no mechanism left for me to defend," he said.
"The reports this week of Israeli military maneuvers, which took place in early June, provoked the IAEA warning," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Pamela Falk, who is based at the U.N., "because atomic energy chief El Baradei has been pleading with Iran to accept a new package of incentives before another round of sanctions would be imposed."
"The problem in the region is that, as time passes and the clock is ticking on Iran's uranium enrichment program, there is a fear that Israel will act, as it did in Syria last year, to attack at least one of Iran's nuclear facilities," said Falk, who was in Saudi Arabia earlier this week.
"Israel is evidently the most threatened by the last IAEA report, which concluded that there are unanswered questions about Iran's ability to eventually develop nuclear weapons," said Falk, "so it is el Baradei himself who produced the report that is making Israel nervous."
Meanwhile, Iran is reiterating its decision to continue enriching uranium, calling Western pressure to suspend the work "illogical."
The statement by a government spokesman came as Europe waits for Iran's formal answer to an international package of incentives designed to rein in its nuclear program.
Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham on Saturday as saying that his country will respond to the package at a convenient time.
The package would give Tehran economic incentives, and the chance to develop alternate light-water reactors, in return for dropping the uranium enrichment.
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