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Iran 'able to build nuke weapons' - US official
Updated: 2006-02-07 09:32

The U.S. State Department's top official on nuclear issues says Iran used negotiations with the European Union to play for time to further its nuclear ambitions and now has the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon and a delivery system.

"I would say that Iran does have the capability to develop nuclear weapons and the delivery means for those weapons," Undersecretary Robert Joseph told reporters on Monday.

Joseph was referring to questions that were raised from documents submitted to the IAEA last week that pointed to links between the manufacturing of nuclear weapons components and the weaponization of missile delivery systems.

His comments were the strongest to date by a U.S. official about the ability of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and a delivery system without outside help and sought to put pressure on the international community to deal with the nuclear threat posed by Iran.

Joseph' words were more definitive than those of U.S. President George W. Bush, who in a statement Saturday applauding the IAEA board of governors' decision to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council and said Iran was "continuing to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons."

Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency to remove its surveillance cameras and other equipment from its nuclear sites by mid-February.

The United States has long believed that Iran had long-range missile capacity but has been less sure about Tehran's ability to actually shrink a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile, a process called "weaponization".

Joseph said Iran had "tremendous financial resources and Iran has a very sophisticated and very advanced scientific and technical community."

He declined to say how long it would be before Iran would actually be able to build a nuclear weapon.

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