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.
"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