Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Special Forces Told to Prepare for Iran Attack; FEARS RISE THAT TEHRAN REGIME IS DEVELOPING NUCLEAR ARMS PROGRAMME

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Special Forces Told to Prepare for Iran Attack; FEARS RISE THAT TEHRAN REGIME IS DEVELOPING NUCLEAR ARMS PROGRAMME

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBERT FOX

BRITISH and American intelligence and special forces have been put on alert for a conflict with Iran within the next 12 months, as fears grow that Tehran is building a nuclear weapons programme.

Iran has been constructing a nuclear civil power programme for some years.

It is due to start generating significant amounts of electricity for the national power grid in two years.

However, United Nations, American and EU experts have become alarmed at the extent of the nuclear plants in Iran, and many are of a sophistication that suggests that they are for a weapons programme rather than for civil use.

A full report by the International Atomic Energy Authority is due to be published within days. It points at " discrepancies" in what Iran has officially disclosed about its nuclear facilities.

The chief IAEA inspector Mohammed El Baradei said: "Tehran has failed to report certain nuclear material and activities."

The EU has declared this week that it backs the demands of the United States and Britain that IAEA inspectors should be allowed full access to all nuclear sites in Iran. Russia, which has helped Iran develop nuclear plants, has also backed the international effort to get more inspectors on the ground there.

Tehran has rejected these demands. A government spokesman accused Washington of "blatant interference" in stirring up the student protests against the clerical regime, which have been running for six nights in the capital.

However, the EU's foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg yesterday backed the Americans and demanded that inspectors be admitted or any trade deals with the EU should be called off.

In the past week the EU and Nato, as well as Russia and Japan, have expressed genuine alarm that Iran could be developing a nuclear weapons programme more powerful than anything Saddam Hussein actually achieved in Iraq, whatever he intended.

"This is not a question of crying Wolfowitz," a Washington defence insider said, referring to the calls to deal with the "axis of evil" of rogue states - which include Iran - by the hawkish deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz. …

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