Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb within three years, perhaps even next year, according to intelligence reports, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.
"Intelligence estimates range from one to three years," he told the press after a meeting with his NATO counterparts. However, he stressed that these projections were only for the production of weapons grade uranium and not its weaponisation or the development of a delivery system.
Gates added that the United States remained in close consultation with Israel on the fresh set of sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council. In keeping with the US doctrine of not excluding any initiative to tackle Iran's nuclear ambitions, he mentioned the risk that Iran "could face military action from Israel or somewhere else," should it pursue nuclear arms.
Tehran maintains its uranium enrichment programme is for peaceful civilian purposes, while Western nations have charged that Iran is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons.