Iran is likely to be able to develop a nuclear weapons capability in 10 or 15 years but could overcome the technical difficulties within a much shorter period, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), IRNA reported from London.
"We estimate, if everything goes right, if they throw all their effort into solving their problems, they might be able to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon within five years," said IISS analyst Gary Samore.
But Samore, a former national security advisor to US President Bill Clinton, suggested that it was more likely that, given Iran's cautious behavior, a decision on whether to build such a capability may be much further away.
"They're trying to avoid international reaction and I think it's perhaps more likely that they would try to develop their nuclear capabilities over a much longer period of time, a decade or 15 years," he said.
Samore made his assessment in an interview with BBC News ahead of launching an IISS report Tuesday on Iran's nuclear program. It comes ahead of the IAEA holding a board meeting on September 19 to discuss whether to refer the case to the UN Security Council.
The report said it was unlikely Tehran had significant stocks of undeclared nuclear weapons-usable materials, essential for acquiring nuclear arms.
The ability to design and make a nuclear weapon from such material, a second criteria for arms capability, was less easy to assess, it suggested.
The IISS report, edited by Samore, also gives considerable detail on Iran's long-range missile program, where it says there have been considerable technical advances in recent years.
It believed that Iran was focusing on fielding more of its Shahab-3 systems, a variant of a North Korean missile, which is claimed to be capable of hitting targets in Israel, much of Turkey and southern Russia.
See IISS's press statement
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