Photograph by Vahid Reza Alaei/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday denied U.N. claims that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon and vowed that his nation wouldn't veer from its current path of scientific research.
"This nation won't retreat one iota from the path it is going," Ahmadinejad said in remarks broadcast on state-run television, according to the Associated Press. "Why are you ruining the prestige of the (U.N. nuclear) agency for absurd U.S. claims?"
Ahmadinejad added: "The Iranian nation is wise. It won't build two bombs against 20,000 (nuclear) bombs you have."
Ahmadinejad's comments come one day after the U.N. nuclear watchdog released a rather damning report it said made a credible case that Iran has been carrying out a secret program to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel initially offered a muted response to the report, apparently in a bid to avoid framing the issue as a regional one. But on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement urging world leaders to step in to stop Iran.
"The significance of the report is that the international community must bring about the cessation of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, which endanger the peace of the world and of the Middle East," the statement said.
UPDATE Tuesday, Nov. 8: As promised, U.N. weapons inspectors released new evidence on Tuesday they say makes a credible case that "Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device," and that the effort may still be ongoing.
The Washington Post previewed the report from the international watchdog group earlier this week, but its formal release represents, in the words of the New York Times, "the harshest judgment that the International Atomic Energy Agency has ever issued in its decade-long struggle to pierce the secrecy surrounding the Iranian program."
More from the NYT:
"The report offered no estimate of how long it would take for Iran to be able to produce a nuclear weapon. But, relying on evidence whose scope and depth is much greater than ever before made public, it laid out the case that Iran had moved far beyond the blackboard to create computer models of nuclear explosions in 2008 and 2009, and conducted experiments on nuclear triggers. The report said that starting in 2000, the Iranians constructed a vessel to conduct those tests, which was not shown to inspectors who visited the site five years later."
Iran officials have already denied the report. The initial response from the Obama administration, meanwhile, was muted, a move that appeared to be made in order to let the report stand on its own. "We just received this report,” a State Department spokeswoman told the Times. “We’re going to study it. We are not prepared to speak about any next steps at this point."
POST Monday, Nov. 7: Iran is close to being able to build its own nuclear weapons. Very close.
That’s the big takeaway from a major report from the International Atomic Energy Agency due out later this week, according to the Washington Post, which previewed the report on Monday after speaking with Western diplomats and getting a sneak peek at an independent summary of its findings.
According to the Post, intelligence provided to the U.N. nuclear watchdog "shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon" and that the Islamic republic has conducted "an apparent secret research program that was more ambitious, more organized and more successful than commonly suspected."
In case that wasn't enough to put everyone on edge, the independent summary of the new intelligence explains that agency officials believe that Iran "has sufficient information to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device" using highly enriched uranium as its fissile core, and points to a formalized and extensive process for gaining all the necessary skills for building the weapons.
The report makes it clear that Iran wasn't able to make the necessary scientific leaps on its own, instead relying heavily on assistance from foreign scientists to clear a number of major technical hurdles. The Post says that a large chunk of the help allegedly came from a former Soviet weapon scientist, who "tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction." Crucial technology linked to Pakistan and North Korea has also played a key role in Iran's nuclear advances, according to the officials.
The new information appears to confirm fears that Iran continued to experiment with the technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon even after the nation was believed to have halted such work in 2003, amid growing pressure at home and abroad.