LONDON -- Iran is moving 'very quickly' toward production of a nuclear bomb and could have such a weapon within two years, the authoritative Jane's Defence Weekly reported today.
Jane's quoted news reports as saying production on Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's nuclear bomb was 'entering its final stages,' and that construction would follow completion of a nuclear power plant being built with the help of West German experts.
Jane's Weekly editor Robert Hutchinson said that although the report originated with the Arabian Gulf press, 'We checked it out and it seems to stand up ... the indications are that the Iranians are moving that way and moving that way very quickly.'
Jane's, a world authority on weapons systems, aircraft and ships, published only a short four-paragraph item on the bomb:
'Iran is engaged in the production of an atomic bomb, likely to be ready within two years, according to press reports in the Arabian Gulf last week,' it said.
Hutchinson noted that Iran could carry out full production of a nuclear bomb only when a nuclear power plant is finished in the southern Iranian city of Boushahar and can produce the plutonium needed to arm an atomic bomb.
But he said Jane's followed up reports in Washington and learned there 'that the nuclear plant's foundations are now visible, presumably via reconnaissance satellites.'
The magazine also noted reports that a West German company had dispatched 40 experts to work on the plant and quoted West German intelligence sources as saying the production of a nuclear bomb was 'entering its final stages.'
In Washington, a source familiar with Iran's nuclear program appeared to doubt Iran was near construction of a nuclear device.
The source said Iran started construction of two reactors under the regime of the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pehlavi but work at the site was halted in 1979 amid the turmoil of Khomeini's Islamic revolution and has not resumed.
Hutchinson said that while Iran will need to complete the nuclear reactor first, 'the reports are that the Iranians are developing the needed technology at the same time' so they would be able to complete the bomb once the nuclear fuel is ready.
For the last 3 years, Iran has been engaged in a bitter border war with Iraq, which has superior weapons. As a result, the Iranians have been forced to rely on their larger population and used the tactic of sending human waves, many of them teenage boys, against the Iraqi lines.
Iraq was also previously thought to be preparing an atomic bomb, but in 1981 Israel, using U.S.-made F-16 jets, bombed the French-built Osirak nuclear reactor southeast of Baghdad. Last month, Iraqi officials signed a contract with the Soviets for a feasibility study on the construction of a new nuclear plant.