Tuesday 24 October 2017

Iran moves closer to arming nuclear warhead

Damien McElroy in London

Iran has passed a crucial nuclear threshold, weapons inspectors warned yesterday, and could now go on to arm an atomic missile with relative ease.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iranian nuclear scientists had made at least 22kg of enriched uranium of at least 20pc purity, a technical hurdle that is the hardest to overcome on the way to weapons-grade uranium.

Experts estimate that 20kg of uranium is the minimum required to arm a warhead. The uranium would still need to have its purity raised to 90pc, but that is a relatively easy process.

The agency's report comes in spite of the recent imposition at the United Nations of a fresh round of sanctions against Iran and will heighten fears of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear plants. The prospect of an attack had receded only recently with American assurances that Tehran was more than a year away from acquiring a bomb.

The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog said Iran had maintained its defiance of international pressure to curb its programme despite the imposition of harsh sanctions in May.

The IAEA has grown increasingly alarmed at Iran's behaviour and the latest report, which will be presented to the agency's governors next week, lambasted Tehran on several fronts.

The country's refusal to answer questions on its attempts to make a nuclear warhead that could be fitted on to its most advanced missiles was denounced as a violation of sanctions. The agency also rebuked the regime for its repeated failure to co-operate with weapons inspections designed to ensure material was held securely at Iranian plants.

Iran barred two weapons inspectors in June after they reported undeclared nuclear activity by scientists. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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