JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israeli estimates of when Iran will be able to build a nuclear bomb have shifted back one year to 2008 following a review of Iranian capabilities, an Israeli military officer said in remarks published on Monday.
Israel has abandoned its earlier belief that Iran had a separate military nuclear programme, and now sees it as entirely dependent on its slower civilian project to produce a bomb, the senior officer said.
Israel has rarely given details of the reasoning behind its assessments of how close Iran could be to building a bomb.
"We no longer think that a secret military track runs independent of the civilian one," the officer told The Jerusalem Post. "If it were, then they could acquire weapons in 2007."
"Now we think the military track is dependent on the civilian one. However, from a certain point it will be able to run independently. But not earlier than 2008," the officer said.
It said Iran probably would have a bomb by 2012.
Security sources confirmed that the details in the newspaper report were correct.
The United States, like Israel, has long accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear arms in secret facilities. Iran denies this, arguing its atomic ambitions are limited to electricity-generating power stations.
Iranian officials have also accused Israel of trying to distract the international community from its own assumed nuclear arsenal and stoking world opinion against the last Middle East foe which could challenge it militarily.
In 2000, Israeli security sources told Reuters that Iran would be "nuclear-capable" within five years and was developing long-range missiles which could reach Tel Aviv.
This projection was adjusted to 2007 last year, with analysts saying mounting scrutiny on Iran by the U.N. nuclear watchdog and the European Union”s negotiators, Britain, France and Germany was slowing work.
Iran said it would definitely resume some sensitive nuclear fuel activities on Monday after the EU failed to meet Tehran”s deadline to submit proposals to break a diplomatic impasse.
The move could put Iran on a collision course with the U.N Security Council for possible sanctions.