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EU Says Iran Close to Developing Nuclear Weapon

The European Union said Wednesday that Iran was close to being able to develop a nuclear weapon. The warning to the IAEA in Vienna coincides with North Korea's apparent decision to reactivate its main nuclear reactor. Lisa Bryant reports for VOA from Paris.

The text of the European Union's warning on Iran was released to reporters ahead of its delivery to a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. It claims Tehran is close to being able to arm a nuclear warhead and that it seems to have pursued a program aimed to acquire a nuclear bomb.

Both the United States and Israel have also suggested Iran may be close to developing a nuclear weapon. But Tehran continues to insist its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes, to generate energy.

On Monday, IAEA head Mohammed El Baradei again urged Iran to be completely open about its nuclear program.

The standoff with Tehran comes as another country with suspect nuclear activities, North Korea, barred IAEA inspectors from accessing its main nuclear reactor. Baradei also said North Korea has announced plans to reactivate the site, in a move suggesting the country intends to restart its nuclear program.

John Swenson Wright, a specialist on North Korea at Chatham House, a London-based policy institute said "this is a serious development. One shouldn't underestimate the importance of what the North Koreans are doing at present. This echoes what they did in the 1990s, in reactivating their nuclear program."

But Wright is not so sure North Korea will actually restart its nuclear activities and withdraw from a six-nation deal for North Korea to begin dismantling its program in exchange for aid and other concessions. Instead, he describes North Korea's move as diplomatic brinksmanship.sparked by Washington's refusal to delist North Korea as sponsoring international terror.

"It's important in the first instance for the five other parties in the talks process to remain united," Wright said. "One of the things North Korea has been successful in the past is dividing the parties. And it's important for all of those parties, and the international community as a whole, to make clear this is not acceptable behavior."

Wright says the international community can also show North Korea what it stands to lose - both in terms of financial aid and in terms of reengaging with the rest of the world.