ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday there is growing evidence that Iran has suffered a setback in its suspected nuclear weapons program, but insisted that world powers must continue tightening their economic sanctions against the Islamic republic.
Clinton, arriving here for a four-day visit to the Persian Gulf, said Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program will remain a threat to the Middle East and other nations even if setbacks prevent it from acquiring bomb-making ability for several years.
“The timeline is not so important as the international effort to try to ensure that, whatever the timeline, Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons,” she told reporters aboard her plane. “I don’t know that it gives much comfort to somebody who is in the gulf, or is in a country that Iran has vowed to destroy, that it’s a one-year or three-year time frame.”
Israeli officials, who have long warned that Iran could very soon obtain nuclear bomb-building capability, have in recent days changed position, saying that they believe that a bomb may be five years off, in part because of foreign attempts to sabotage the program. Iran has denied it is pursuing nuclear weapons and says its program is intended for energy production.
Last Thursday, the outgoing chief of the Mossad intelligence agency, Meir Dagan, told Israeli reporters that the Iranians couldn’t build a bomb before 2015 at the earliest, in part because of “measures that have been deployed against them.”
He didn’t specify what those measures were, but there have been widespread reports that the program has been damaged by a computer virus probably launched by a foreign government.