CIA Says Iran May
Now Be Able To Make
Nuclear Bomb
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The CIA has told the White House that it can no longer rule out the possibility that Iran is now able to make a nuclear weapon, The New York Times reported Monday.
The Times reported that the new assessment was a sharp departure from earlier evaluations and was not based on information showing Iranian progress in building a bomb but on decreasing U.S. certainty that it was able to effectively monitor Iran's progress in making a nuclear weapon.
Rather than developing the technology and creating nuclear materials needed to build a bomb, Iran appeared to be trying to acquire the knowledge and materials on the black market, primarily from former Soviet republics, the officials told the Times.
The CIA has difficulty tracking those black market transactions and thus is hedging its analyses of Iran's progress.
Washington has worked to weaken ties between Iran and Russia, but has made little headway.
Because of the uncertainty, officials were considering ordering a National Intelligence Estimate to assess Tehran's nuclear capacity, to which all agencies in the intelligence community would contribute, the Times reported.
Russia, which has large stockpiles of nuclear fuel and weapons, has been known to sell nuclear and missile technology to Iran, and helped with its atomic energy program.
There is fear that Russia may be expanding that trade to include heavy water and graphite technology. Those concerns led the Clinton administration to impose sanctions on two Russian scientific institutions.
Iran has denied that it was cooperating with the controversial institutions to develop missiles and nuclear weapons. In fact, Iran denies having a nuclear weapons program at all and insists that it has been a member in good standing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty since 1970. The pact bars states without nuclear weapons from acquiring them.
Russia has denied helping Iran develop nuclear weapons.
While there is disagreement over what Iran has acquired, there is widespread agreement that Tehran would like to build a nuclear bomb.
David Albright, a nuclear analyst based in Washington, told the Times that Iran was likely seeking a nuclear weapon as part of an arms race with its rival, Iraq. ``Iran has made it clear that it will not be the last major country in the region to develop nuclear weapons,'' he said.


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