Iran is poised to produce its first nuclear warhead and will be able to do so within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a media report said on Monday.
Quoting Western intelligence sources, The Times daily claimed that Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the green signal from its Supreme Leader.
A US National Intelligence Estimate two years ago had concluded that Iran had ended its nuclear arms research programme in 2003 because of the threat from the American invasion of Iraq.
But intelligence sources told the newspaper that Tehran had halted the research because it had achieved its aim — to find a way of detonating a warhead that could be launched on its long-range Shehab-3 missiles.
Should Ayatollah Khamenei approve building of a nuclear device, it would take six months to enrich enough uranium and another six months to assemble the warhead, sources said.
The Iranian Defence Ministry has been running a covert nuclear research department for years, employing hundreds of scientists, researchers and metallurgists in a multibillion-dollar programme to develop the technology alongside the civilian nuclear programme, it said.