WASHINGTON Oct 5 The United States believes
Iran is a year or a more away from being able to produce a
nuclear weapon, President Barack Obama said in an interview with
the Associated Press released on Saturday, although he described
the estimate as "conservative."
"Our assessment continues to be a year or more away, and in
fact, actually our estimate is probably more conservative than
the estimates of Israeli intelligence services," Obama said in
reply to a question about the U.S. intelligence assessment of
Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons.
Obama has directed U.S. officials to try to work out an
agreement with Iran to allay international concerns about its
nuclear program, an opportunity he has said is worth exploring
after the election of the relatively moderate Iranian President
The United States, Israel and other countries accuse Iran of
using its nuclear program to try to develop the capability to
produce weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful energy
Obama and Rouhani spoke by telephone a week ago, the
highest-level contact between the two countries in three
"I think Rouhani has staked his position on the idea that he
can improve relations with the rest of the world," Obama said in
the AP interview.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed
Rouhani's overtures as a ruse. Israel has warned that new
Iranian uranium centrifuges could give Tehran the ability to
rapidly produce bomb fuel.
"If Iran decides to complete uranium enrichment, it would be
able to do so within a few weeks from the moment of decision,"
an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama see
eye-to-eye on the need to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear
weapons," the official said.
Obama said he understands why Israel is skeptical about
Iran's diplomatic overtures, but said he wants to test whether
Rouhani can "follow through."
"The way the Iranian system works, he's not the only
decision maker. He's not even the ultimate decision maker,"
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on
Saturday he supported Rouhani's diplomatic opening at the U.N.
General Assembly last week.
But Khamenei, who would make final decisions on any nuclear
deal, said that some of what occurred at the U.N. was "not
proper" - a hint at some disagreement over Rouhani's phone
conversation with Obama.