Jerusalem: Israel`s minister of strategic
affairs said Wednesday that technical difficulties have pushed
back the Iranian timetable for producing a nuclear weapon.
Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief of staff whose
portfolio includes monitoring Iran, said he believes Iran is
at least three years away from developing a nuclear bomb.
Iran denies such intentions.
Israeli military officials have said Iran has the
expertise to build a bomb, but still needs time to gather the
necessary materials. Yaalon`s assessment matches the outer
range of past Israeli estimates that Iran is anywhere from one
to three years away from developing a weapon.
"These difficulties postpone the timetable, so we
can`t talk about a point of no return. Iran does not currently
have the ability to produce nuclear weapons by itself," he
told Israel Radio. "It could happen in the next three years if
the process succeeds. I hope it won`t succeed at all and that
the Western world`s effort will ultimately bring about Iran
not having a nuclear capability."
Israel considers Iran a strategic threat because of
its nuclear program, missile capability and frequent
references by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the
destruction of Israel.
Israel has repeatedly warned in recent years that Iran
was close to developing a nuclear weapons, only to revise its
Yaalon acknowledged that evaluating Iran`s secretive
nuclear program is an imprecise science, noting that under
past assessments he delivered while in the military, Iran
should already have achieved weapons capability.
Yaalon did not say how he reached his latest
assessment. In recent months Iranian nuclear scientists have
been abducted and killed, and a destructive computer worm has
struck Iran`s uranium enrichment activity.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and has
accused Israel of trying to sabotage it.
Israel officially supports the diplomatic efforts in
place to curb Iran`s nuclear ambitions, but has not ruled out
the possibility of a military strike.