WASHINGTON — U.S. officials have convinced Israel that Iran needs at least a year to develop a nuclear weapon, dimming prospects of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, The New York Times reports.
Israeli officials thought Iran could develop nuclear weapons within months. But Gary Samore, President Barack Obama's top adviser on nuclear issues, told the Times he thinks it would take Tehran "roughly a year" to turn low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material.
"A year is a very long period of time," Samore was quoted by the newspaper in an report posted on its website late Thursday.
The assessment is based on U.S. intelligence and international inspectors' reports.
Israeli officials have indicated that if they thought Iran was developing a nuclear weapon, they would probably take military action. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes.
American and Israeli officials believe that Iran has only enough nuclear materials for two weapons. And to build those two would require the country to kick out international inspectors, which would make it clear what its intentions were.
It would also take some time for Iran to convert its nuclear facilities to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Iran has added relatively few centrifuges – machines that enrich uranium – this year, and only about half of those are working, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"Either they don't have the machines, or they have real questions about their technical competence," Samore told the Times.
Israeli officials remain suspicious that Iran has a secret enrichment site.