Israeli intelligence insiders have said it could take until 2015 or 2016 before Iran gains the capacity to assemble a nuclear bomb, years later than previous projections had anticipated, according to a Monday report by McClatchy Newspapers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last autumn said Iran was on track to stockpile sufficient 20 percent-enriched uranium by the middle of this year to rapidly produce fuel for a single bomb if it chose to do so. However, armed forces personnel and others in Israel's government have concluded Tehran -- which maintains that its nuclear program is strictly peaceful -- is unlikely to complete atomic armaments sooner than 2015 and might require until late 2016, according to data received by the media organization in recent weeks.
"Previous assessments were built on a set of data that has since shifted," one Israeli intelligence insider said. Tehran appears to have deliberately decreased the pace of its atomic activities, and the efforts have also encountered a number of "mishaps," the source added.
Israeli government personnel said allegations of a detonation at Iran's Qum uranium enrichment complex were undergoing scrutiny on Monday. The Obama administration, though, played down claims of a blast, Agence France-Presse reported.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday stated: “We have no information to confirm the allegations in that report, and we do not believe the report is credible."
Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday "categorically" denied seeking any postponement of a proposed new atomic meeting between Iran and six world powers, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported. Senior-level Iranian diplomats last year held three rounds of negotiations on their nation's nuclear program with counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.