Iran, labelled as an 'axis of evil' by the United States, could have a nuclear bomb by 2010, a leading international think-tank has warned.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Iran will amass enough low-enriched uranium this year which could put it on course to build a nuke weapon by the end of next year, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.
"This year, it's very likely that Iran will have produced enough low-enriched uranium which, if further enriched, could constitute enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, if that is the route Iran so desires," said IISS's Senior Fellow for Non-Proliferation Mark Fitzpatrick.
Further enrichment to produce weapons-grade uranium would take at least 12 months after the threshold that Iran is likely to reach at the end of this year, he said.
However, according to the institute, based in Britain, scientists in Iran would have to overcome numerous hurdles and fully master the enrichment of uranium before this can finally take place by 2010.
Iran is defying five United Nations Resolutions by enriching uranium inside an underground plant at Natanz. This process is highly sensitive because it amounts to "dual use" technology.
If the country goes to the next stage and chooses to produce weapons-grade uranium, however, it would have to expel the IAEA inspectors who presently monitor its plants. And, to have a proper weapons system, Iran will need to build missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead too.
US President Barack Obama has already pledged to "engage" directly with Iran's leaders and seek a diplomatic solution to the nuclear confrontation. "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."