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Iran Will Know How to Build Bomb in 6 Months - Israel
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Feb 16, 1:32 PM (ET)

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 By Andrew Cawthorne and Amir Paivar

LONDON/TEHRAN (Reuters) - Israel said on Wednesday Tehran was just six
months away from being able to build an atomic bomb, as Iranian state
television rattled markets by reporting an explosion near Iran's only
nuclear power plant.

A senior Iranian military officer later said the explosion in south Iran,
initially reported as caused by a missile, was blasting work during the
construction of a dam.

But the initial report by Al-Alam satellite channel jolted financial
markets, worried about any possible U.S. or Israeli strike to end Iran's
nuclear ambitions.

Washington believes Iran is seeking an atomic bomb, an accusation denied by
Tehran which says its nuclear program is for generating electricity only.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, whose country regards Iran as one
of its most dangerous enemies, said Tehran was "trying very hard to develop
the nuclear bomb."

"The question is not if the Iranians will have a nuclear bomb in 2009, 10
or 11, the main question is when are they going to have the knowledge to do
it," he told reporters during a visit to London.

"We believe in six months from today they will end all the tests and
experiments they are doing to have that knowledge."

While Europe has pursued a policy of engagement with Iran, the United
States and Israel have taken a more aggressive stance. Washington has said
it favors diplomacy but does not rule out any option, and Israel has hinted
at possible military action.

 An Israeli air strike on the Iraqi reactor Osiraq in 1981 dealt a severe
blow to Saddam Hussein's nuclear program.

The Al-Alam satellite channel, which broadcasts in Arabic, reported a
powerful explosion near the town of Dailam, about 100 miles from Iran's
only nuclear power plant.

It quoted witnesses as saying the explosion was caused by an aircraft
firing a missile in a deserted area near Dailam, but also cited a local
source saying a fuel tank may have fallen from an Iranian plane.

The report caused the U.S. stock market to drop briefly and sent oil prices

But Ali Reza Afshar, deputy to the chief of staff of the Iranian armed
forces, later blamed blasting work on a dam.

"What happened was only a natural part of building work. These were heavy
blasts carried out for the construction of the dam," he said on state

Al-Alam later dropped any reference to a missile strike from its news


Iran's Russian-built 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor, its only nuclear power
plant, is due to start operating in Bushehr province in late 2005 and will
reach full capacity in 2006.

Tehran on Wednesday accused the United States of using satellites "and
other tools" to spy on its nuclear sites and threatening to shoot down any
aerial surveillance craft.

Reacting to the blast report, a Defense Department spokesman stressed to
Reuters that "it is U.S. policy to deal with Iran in a diplomatic manner."

France, Britain and Germany have been trying to persuade Iran to scrap
potentially weapons-related activities in return for economic incentives,
but Iran says its suspension of uranium enrichment activities last November
is only temporary.

Iran has warned it would both retaliate and accelerate its drive to master
nuclear technology if the United States or Israel attacked its atomic

Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref also said on Wednesday that
Tehran was ready to work with Syria, itself locked in a row with the United
States, to face threats.

"We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," Aref said
in Tehran after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari.

Otari told reporters: "This meeting, which takes place at this sensitive
time, is important, especially because Syria and Iran face several
challenges and it is necessary to build a common front."

The U.S. accuses Syria of letting Palestinian militants and Iraqi
insurgents operate on its soil.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: [EMAIL PROTECTED]>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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