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Middle East

Iran eyes 30 nuclear bombs a year: Israel minister

  • Israel's President Shimon Peres, Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Naftali Bennet,Colombia's Minister of Trade Sergio Diazgranados and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, June 10, 2013, in Jerusalem. (AFP PHOTO/LIOR MIZRAHI-POOL)

JERUSALEM: Iran is working round the clock to enlarge its nuclear infrastructure with the eventual aim of developing an industry capable of building up to 30 bombs a year, an Israeli minister charged on Monday.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Tehran was "very close" to crossing the red line laid out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year.

But he said it was biding its time and building uranium-enrichment facilities before making the final push for weapons-grade material.

"The Iranians are getting very close now to the red line... They have close to 200 kilos -- 190 kilos (418 pounds) -- of 20 percent enriched uranium," Steinitz said.

"Once they have 250 kilos, this is enough to make the final rush to 90 percent," the level of enrichment required for a nuclear warhead, he said in a presentation to the Foreign Press Association.

"It is a matter of weeks or maybe two months to jump from 20 percent to 90 percent with so many centrifuges," he said.

"What they are doing now -- instead of crossing the red line, they are widening and enlarging their capacity by putting in more centrifuges, faster centrifuges."

Iran's aim, he charged, was to build a nuclear arsenal, not just a single bomb.

"Many people are saying it's a question of the Iranian bomb - whether they will have it or not. No. We are speaking about an Iranian arsenal."

Tehran's big fear was that a Western military strike could wipe out their nuclear facilities "within a few hours," he said.

"The Iranians feel very vulnerable, especially from American air operations. This is their main concern -- that if the West, if NATO, if America decide to attack them, a few hours of accurate air raids might destroy their nuclear facilities."

Israel and many Western governments suspect Iran is using its civilian nuclear programme as cover for developing a weapons capability, a charge denied by Tehran.

But the Jewish state, the Middle East's sole, if undeclared, nuclear power, has refused to rule out a pre-emptive military strike to prevent it.

 
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