Iran only making slow nuclear progress: expert

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WASHINGTON – Iran is not making fast progress towards acquiring a nuclear weapon, a US expert said on Friday, adding he believed Tehran would still need another two years to achieve that goal. “Iran is not moving as fast as it could. They’ve been at it since 25 years since they started the Iranian enrichment program in about 1985,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He said Iran would still need “a little over two years to have a bomb.”
Fitzpatrick also compared Tehran’s slow progress to the 11 years it took Pakistan to acquire a nuclear capacity, as he presented an IISS report entitled “Iran’s nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities: a net assessment. ” But Fitzpatrick, a former State Department employee, added Iran had still not yet completely decided whether to press ahead with making a nuclear bomb.
“As long they haven’t made that decision I think there is still a time for diplomacy,” he said. At the end of December, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Yaalon said several recent setbacks had delayed Tehran’s acquisition of a nuclear capability. One of them was the Internet virus, the Stuxnet worm, which some suspect was developed by Israel and the United States and which affected the Iranian centrifuges producing enriched uranium — a vital component of a nuclear bomb.
The New York Times reported in January that US and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop the computer worm. “Stuxnet has had an impact on putting some centrifugues out of operation. But it was not a complete success because they were able to operate,” Fitzpatrick said. UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic have also impacted the alleged Iranian nuclear program, Washington has said. The Sajil 2 missile — which would be used to carry a nuclear warhead — was also “still two years away from being operational,” Fitzpatrick said.