The South African Government has carefully studied the recently issued National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of the United States of America ( US) regarding Iran's nuclear intentions and capabilities. South Africa's Governor on the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was briefed this week by his US counterpart, in Vienna, and he also had the opportunity to consult with senior officials at the IAEA.
Among the key judgements of the NIE report is that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon or nuclear weapons programme, and that it has to date not produced sufficient amounts of nuclear material indigenously to manufacture a nuclear weapon. It also finds that although " Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz", it is judged "with moderate confidence (that) it still faces significant technical problems operating them". Furthermore, the report also judges that Iran may not be technically capable of producing enough uranium for a weapon until after 2015.
This report of the US seems to be consistent with the findings of the IAEA so far, including that the Agency continues to be able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, and that the Agency has been provided with the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities.
The South African Government believes that this Estimate can also contribute to the process led by the IAEA, and through the innovative leadership of the Director General, Dr Mohammed El Baradei, of obtaining authoritative and verified information about the precise scale and nature of Iran's nuclear programme, thereby contributing to building confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme.
Although there remain outstanding issues to be dealt with in terms of Iran's past nuclear activities, and it remains essential for Iran to build confidence in its present and future nuclear programme, South Africa has consistently called upon the Agency and Iran to accelerate their co-operation in a spirit of transparency.
Whilst the IAEA verification activities in Iran have placed the international community on the right path to finally resolve the outstanding issues surrounding Iran's nuclear programme, in accordance with the agreed work plan, it is important that this process should be fully supported without undue interference and pressure.
The South Africa Government also urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to utilise this window of opportunity to resolve all the outstanding questions and issues with the Agency without delay. Through such a course of action we will place ourselves on the path of peace and reconciliation.