WASHINGTON – Iran now has hundreds of centrifuges to produce enriched uranium and is moving closer to building a nuclear weapon than international authorities had previously believed.
“We have seen this week Iran has got a more aggressive nuclear program than the (International Atomic Energy Agency) thought it had,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday on CNN. He used the reports to bolster the Bush administration’s case against Iraq.
“It shows you how a determined nation that has the intent to develop a nuclear weapon can keep that development process secret from inspectors and outsiders, if they really are determined to do it, and we know that Saddam Hussein has not lost his intent,” Powell said.
He did not answer directly when asked how close Iran is to building a bomb.
Time magazine reported Sunday that a nuclear power facility at Natanz in Iran is closer to enriching uranium than previously thought. The magazine said the plant has hundreds of gas centrifuges ready to produce enriched uranium that could be used in advanced nuclear weapons.
Israel destroyed an Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981, and is deeply alarmed by the development in Iran, Time reported.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice sidestepped a question about whether Israel would be justified in attacking the Iranian plant.
“I’m not going to speculate on what might be the right thing here,” Rice said. “What is the right thing is for the international community to get serious about the problems of proliferation, to recognize that there are states that are determined to try and acquire weapons of mass destruction, to deny them the means.”
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday the Bush administration has “long been concerned about North Korea and Iran” pursuing nuclear weapons.
“If the U.N. is not able to enforce anti-proliferation agreements around the world, proliferators will celebrate,” Fleischer said.