Report: Iran could build bomb by mid-2014

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WASHINGTON -- Iran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by middle of next year, and the United States and its allies should intensify sanctions on Tehran before that point is reached, a report by a group of U.S. nonproliferation experts said.

President Barack Obama should also clearly state that the United States will take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the report said.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has expressed concern that Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension. Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, calls those allegations baseless.

The 154-page report, "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East," was produced by five experts for release yesterday.

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"Based on the current trajectory of Iran's nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability in mid-2014," the report said.

It defined "critical capability" as the point when Iran would be able to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more bombs without detection by the West.

By mid-2014, Iran would have enough time to build a secret uranium-enrichment site or significantly increase the number of centrifuges for its nuclear program, said David Albright, one of the project's co-chairs and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

"We don't think there is any secret . . . plant making significant secret uranium enrichment right now," he told Reuters. But there is "real worry" that Iran would build such a plant, he said. -- Reuters

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