Iran is blocking UN nuclear agency attempts to upgrade monitoring of its atomic activities while advancing those activities to the stage that the country would have the means to test a weapon within six months, diplomats told The Associated Press.
The diplomats emphasised that there were no indications of plans for such a nuclear test, saying it was highly unlikely that Iran would risk heightened confrontation with the West -- and chances of Israeli attack -- by embarking on such a course.
But they said that even as Iran expands uranium enrichment, which can create fissile nuclear material, it is resisting International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to increase surveillance of its enrichment site meant to keep pace with the plant's increased size and complexity.
For Iran to amass enough fissile material to conduct an underground test similar to North Korea's 2006 nuclear explosion, it would likely have to kick out monitors of the IAEA -- the UN nuclear agency -- from its one known uranium enrichment site at Natanz. Technicians then could reconfigure the centrifuges now churning out nuclear-fuel grade enriched uranium to highly enriched, weapons-grade material.
Iran is unlikely, however, to want to do that. Such a move would immediately set off international alarm bells and could bridge rifts on how strongly to react -- Russia and China, which have resisted Western calls to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear defiance would likely endorse more sweeping UN sanctions and other penalties.