The United States believes Iran has obtained enough nuclear material to make a bomb, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said on Sunday.

“We think they do, quite frankly,” Mullen said on CNN’s State of the Union program when asked whether Iran has enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

“And Iran having nuclear weapons, I’ve believed for a long time, is a very very bad outcome – for the region and for the world,” Mullen said.

A watchdog report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency two weeks ago said Iran had built up a stockpile of nuclear fuel, raising alarm among Western governments that Tehran might have understated by one third how much uranium it has enriched.

The United States suspects Iran of trying to use its nuclear program to build an atomic bomb, but Tehran insists it is purely for the peaceful generation of electricity. Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, which favors diplomatic engagement with Tehran to defuse the dispute over its nuclear intentions, called Iran’s nuclear program an “urgent problem” the international community must address.

The IAEA report showed a significant increase in Iran’s reported stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) since November to 1,010 kg – enough, some physicists say, for possible conversion into high-enriched uranium for one bomb.

The IAEA later said Iran was cooperating well with UNnuclear inspectors to help ensure it does not again understate the amount of uranium it has enriched, suggesting the uranium accounting shortfall might not have been deliberate evasion.

On Thursday, the United States ambassador to the United Nations said that the Obama administration would seek to end Iran’s nuclear ambition and its support for terrorism – comments that drew an immediate rebuke from Iran’s UN envoy.

Ambassador Mohammad Khazee said Iran has never and will never try to acquire nuclear weapons and dismissed U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s allegation that Iran engages in terrorism as baseless and absurd.

Rice brought up Iran at an open meeting of the UN Security Council on Iraq, saying the long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq and the reduction of the U.S. military presence in the country had to be understood in a larger, regional context that included Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iran.

“The United States will seek an end to Iran’s ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for terrorism,” Rice said. “It will aim to encourage both Iran and Syria to become constructive regional actors.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week that Israel was “running out of time to address the Iranian threat,” and must continue to keep “all options on the table” regarding a potential response.

“The U.S. administration is getting ready to conduct dialogue with Iran. We are convinced that the dialogue must be confined to a short period of time while simultaneously stepping up sanctions,” Barak said.

Earlier, at a Labor Party conference in Tel Aviv, Barak explained that the U.S. dialogue must be confined to a short time frame in order to rapidly determine whether “there is or isn’t a chance.”

Speaking later at an event sponsored by a Jordan valley college in memory of former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Shomron, Barak said that it was “essential for Israel to keep all the options on the table, while standing behind its declarations.”

“It is important first to reach an understanding with the new U.S. administration of [President Barack] Obama,” Barak continued. “A strategic understanding with the U.S. is crucial, and possible. We must try to renew the negotiations with the Palestinians and with Syria, but we must do so from a position of power while fighting for Israel’s interests.”



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