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In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations that Tehran would be on the brink of nuclear weapons capability only in the spring or summer of 2013.
Netanyahu and Barak - who regard Iran as a mortal threat - ordered Israeli defence chiefs in 2010 to prepare for an attack on its nuclear sites but were rebuffed, according to a television report on Monday.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) last month said it did not include 20 percent uranium converted into oxide form in its nuclear bomb breakout scenarios for Iran because of the time needed to change it back.
Iran would need at least two to four months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb and additional time to make the device itself, the U.S.-based think-tank said.
“Iran is progressing towards a nuclear weapons-capable state,” former chief U.N. nuclear inspector Olli Heinonen, now at Harvard University, said. “More enriched uranium is produced, and breakout times become shorter.”
World powers seeking a diplomatic solution to the decade-old standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme want it to halt 20 percent enrichment, close down the underground Fordow plant where it does most of this work and ship out its stockpile.
Iran has signalled it may be ready to suspend the 20 percent activity but says sanctions imposed on the major oil producer must be lifted in return, a demand the West rejects.
Tehran’s move to use some higher-grade enriched uranium for civilian purposes may be a sign of a willingness to compromise, Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank said.
“The problem is that Iran has a history of making voluntary concessions and then pulling back from those concessions. They do this again and again,” Hibbs said.