Iran able to make four atom bombs, says Israeli official


THE HEAD of the Israeli army’s military intelligence branch, Maj Gen Aviv Kochavi, says Iran already has enough enriched uranium to make four atom bombs.

In a rare public appearance, he told the annual Herzliya security conference Israel has conclusive evidence that Teheran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

“Iran is vigorously pursuing military nuclear capabilities and today the intelligence community agrees with Israel on that. Iran has over four tonnes of enriched materials and nearly 100kg of 20 per cent enriched uranium – that’s enough for four bombs,” he said.

The technical capability exists, the general said, and the final decision to manufacture a nuclear bomb will be taken by one man.

“When Khamenei gives the order to produce the first nuclear weapon – it will be done, we believe, within one year.”

Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons of its own but has never admitted as much, considers Iran’s nuclear drive a threat. Jerusalem has advocated tough sanctions against Tehran, while warning “all options remain on the table”, which is understood to infer that Israel will, if it deems necessary to protect itself, take pre-emptive action to stop Iran developing actual weapons.

Teheran insists its nuclear development is merely for peaceful purposes and it does not seek to acquire a nuclear arsenal.

Maj Gen Kochavi warned that Israel’s enemies possess more rockets than ever before. “Our enemies have 200,000 rockets and missiles capable of hitting every part of Israel,” he said, alluding to Iran, Syria , Lebanon and the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel’s deputy prime minister Moshe Ya’alon said Iran’s nuclear facilities are vulnerable to military attacks. Addressing the Herzliya conference, Mr Ya’alon, who also serves as strategic affairs minister, rejected comments from US and Israeli officials that Iran’s underground facilities would be immune.

Mr Ya’alon also said Iran was working on a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States at the base near Teheran that was destroyed in a mysterious explosion in November.

Iran claimed the blast, which killed 17 officers including the architect of Iran’s missile programme, was an accident. However, there was media speculation that western intelligence organisations, including Israel’s Mossad, may have been responsible.