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IAEA says no indications of blast at Iran nuclear site
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Jan 30, 2013


Israel PM says Iran strike would have limited effect: report
Jerusalem (AFP) Jan 30, 2013 - Israel's premier Benjamin Netanyahu believes an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities could cause "significant damage" but only a US attack could halt their operations, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

According to the Maariv daily, Netanyahu told a visiting delegation from the American Jewish Committee that only US military action could completely halt Iran's nuclear programme, which Israel and much of the world believes is a guise for building a weapons capability.

And he also hinted that any US military activity ought to be carried out before Tehran finishes the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, the paper said.

"The sanctions are only likely to stop Iran if there is a credible (military) threat over their head... and in order for it to be a credible threat, you need to mean it, meaning that if the sanctions don't work -- and they haven't until now -- you will use it," he said.

Referring to a military strike, Netanyahu described it as "a defined and specific mission that the United States is capable of carrying out perfectly whereas we are capable of causing (only) significant damage."

He also stressed the need to halt Iran's ongoing enrichment efforts.

"We must prevent the completion of the enrichment process," he said in a likely reference to the process of enriching uranium up to 20 percent, one step before military grade uranium.

Should Tehran complete that process, "Iran would have enough enriched material to build a bomb in a short time," he said.

He also said the window of opportunity to stop Iran through diplomatic and economic means was about to close and that 2013 would be a decisive year, Maariv said.

Israel has consistently refused to rule out a resort to military action to prevent Iran developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

But Tehran denies any such ambition, insisting its civilian nuclear programme is for peaceful power generation and medical purposes only.

The UN atomic agency and a US research group said Wednesday that they had no indications that an explosion took place at an Iranian nuclear facility, as reported by Israeli and US media.

"We understand that Iran has denied that there has been an incident at Fordo. This is consistent with our observations," said Gill Tudor, spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The reports cited the conservative American news website WND, which said an explosion at the Fordo facility on January 21 had caused major damage and trapped workers.

Iran denied any such blast took place, with a senior lawmaker calling the rumours "Western propaganda" aimed at influencing upcoming talks with world powers on Iran's nuclear programme.

In Washington, the Institute for Science and International Security, which has voiced concern about Iran's nuclear activities, also cast doubt on the report of an explosion.

The private research group said that a commercial satellite image taken a day after the purported explosion showed no outward signs of damage to the Fordo site.

"Although an underground explosion may not leave visible exterior signs of damage, ISIS observed no intensified activity in the form of emergency or cleanup vehicles that one would expect to see around the site in the wake of an incident of this magnitude," it said in a statement.

Fordo, dug into a mountain near the holy city of Qom, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of Tehran, is at the heart of international concerns over Iran's nuclear drive.

The site, whose existence was revealed in 2009, began in late 2011 to enrich uranium to purities of 20 percent, close to the 90-percent level needed for a nuclear weapon.

Iran says it is enriching to this level to provide fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes, and denies seeking or ever having sought nuclear weapons.

Iran has accused the United States and Israel of being behind the assassinations of nuclear scientists and sabotage attempts, including the Stuxnet computer virus.

Closing Fordo was a key demand by six world powers -- permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- in a series of meetings last year. A new meeting is expected soon but no date or venue has been set yet.

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