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Iran regime could have a nuclear bomb by 2007 – Iranian exile

Ali SafawiAssociated Press,BRUSSELS, August 25 _ An Iranian opposition group in exile said Thursday Iran is "95 percent ready" to make a nuclear bomb and said Europe’s soft line on Tehran’s uranium enrichment program has only pushed it closer to joining the nuclear powers’ club.

The European Union’s "policy of appeasing the Iranian regime has to be abandoned," Ali Safawi, a member of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, told a news conference.

He said negotiations that Britain, France and Germany have had with Tehran on behalf of the 25-nation EU with the aim of keeping it from developing nuclear arms technology "have been fruitless."

"If anything … it is the regime (in Tehran) that has benefited from these talks" because it has greatly diversified its nuclear program, said Safawi.

He said that by 2007, Iran could have a nuclear bomb, adding, "The (Iranian) regime is 95 percent ready" to make a nuclear bomb.

The NCRI has long been critical of European efforts to nudge Tehran off the road to nuclear weapons by holding out the prospect of large-scale economic assistance.

France, Germany and Britain were to have another round of nuclear talks with Iran next Tuesday.  But the talks were canceled after Tehran’s decision this month to resume operations at a uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, a decision that violated a deal Tehran signed with the EU in November to freeze uranium conversion and other activities during negotiations.

On Sept. 3 the International Atomic Energy Agency is to report on Iran’s implementation of nuclear safeguards. Insufficient progress could prompt the U.N. nuclear watchdog to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions.

Safawi said while the EU has focused on nuclear enrichment at Isfahan, Iran has been developing a heavy water power plant at Arak and imported tritium and lithium through front companies, especially from South Korea, in violation of IAEA rules.

"Obtaining nuclear weapons is an indispensable part of the Iranian regime’s survival strategy,’ said Safawi.

He accused the IAEA of not acting on information about Iran’s nuclear activities. "The IAEA has not been robust, not quick on its feet to react to some of the revelations" about Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States accuses Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to secretly develop nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the program is only for generating electricity.

This month, Iran rejected a European offer of economic incentives and restarted uranium reprocessing, a step before enrichment. It insisted it would not give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to fully develop uranium.