Tags: Negroponte: | Iran | Nuclear | Claims | Exaggerated

Negroponte: Iran Nuclear Claims Exaggerated

Wednesday, 19 April 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Despite the wild and threatening claims of its hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran may not be as close to building nuclear weapons as the world may think.

So says John Negroponte, U.S. National Intelligence Director, who thinks Iran would likely obtain nuclear weapons long before they had the ability to create their own.

Negroponte, in an interview with NBC News, shared his opinion of Iran's nuclear threat and an assessment of what it would take to neutralize an escalating threat in that region.

"According to the experts that I consult, achieving — getting 164 centrifuges to work is still a long way from having the capacity to manufacture sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon," Negroponte said. "It could still be a matter of years. ... In fact our assessment is that the prospects of an Iranian weapon are still a number of years off, and probably into the next decade."

"It's conceivable that they are exaggerating their progress, but I don't have any knowledge to confirm that," Negroponte said of Iran's boasts of growing nuclear strength. " ... This is a very, very high priority, acquiring information about their nuclear program."

Negroponte warned that U.S. action to pre-empt nuclear development in Iran may spark terrorist activities on the part of Hezbollah, an Iran-sponsored terror organization.

"Well, certainly, Hezbollah is an important organization," he said. "It's a political, it's a military and a terrorist organization. It has all three different components.

In recent years, they've limited their activity to the Middle East, particularly Lebanon and Israel. But we know from past experience that — that the Hezbollah have had a broader range of action. They carried out some terrorist acts in the 1980s in Europe."

Negroponte said Hezbollah's worldwide network of terror could bring attacks close to, if not in, the United States.

"We know that even today, they raise funds in other parts of the world, in Latin America, in Africa, and in Asia," Negroponte said of Hezbollah. "So, yes, Hezbollah is an important, significant terrorist organization, and it does benefit from support from Iran."

Negroponte made some other observations about nations and organizations that may pose a threat to the United States.

On China:

On the threat of civil war in Iraq:

On al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq:

On the issue of terrorist surveillance:

On the possibility of another 9/11-type terrorist attack on America:

"I really think that we have drawn the lessons from — 9/11, we continually work on them, we, we're in a constant process of self-appraisal. ... We're really on this case, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and in that sense, I think we're certainly safer than we were before 9/11."

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WASHINGTON -- Despite the wild and threatening claims of its hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran may not be as close to building nuclear weapons as the world may think. So says John Negroponte, U.S. National Intelligence Director, who thinks Iran would likely...
Negroponte:,Iran,Nuclear,Claims,Exaggerated
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2006-00-19
Wednesday, 19 April 2006 12:00 AM
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