Thursday, 26 April 2012

Iran unsure about nuclear weapons

According to the head of Israel's military Lt Gen Benny Gantz, Iran is unlikely to develop nuclear weapons. In a statement in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Gantz said Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had not yet made the final decision about whether to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran maintains that it wants nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only but the West believes Tehran may be developing weapons. In November, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report saying it was unable to "provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran" and that it continued to have "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme".

A number of world powers have imposed sanctions on Iran, including the US, the EU, Canada, Japan and Australia. These include restrictions on Iran's oil sales, ban countries supplying Tehran with heavy weaponry and nuclear-related technology and a freeze on certain assets, people and companies.

Gantz suggests that Iran is beginning to yeald to pressure, adding that Tehran "is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn't yet decided to go the extra mile".

Additionally, speaking of Khamenei he said: "I don't think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, is not so confident. In an interview this week, Netanyahu said he would not want to bet "the security of the world on Iran's rational behaviour". He added that Israel would be prepared to take action against Iran to stop it obtaining a nuclear weapon.

For his part, Gantz did also warn that the more the "Iranians progress the worse the situation is. This is a critical year but not necessarily 'go, no-go'. We're in a period when something must happen”. Adding: “Either Iran takes its nuclear programme to a civilian footing only, or the world - perhaps we too - will have to do something. We're closer to the end of discussions than the middle."

Sources: BBC News, Haaretz, Reuters

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

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