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Gates: Iranian Nuclear Weapon Is One To Three Years Away

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- It could be up to three years before Iran is capable of developing a nuclear weapon, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today, adding that there was still time for the world to put pressure on Tehran.

Asked how long the United States and its allies were prepared to wait for UN sanctions on Iran to bite, Gates said: "I think that everybody agrees we have some more time, including the Israelis, and we will just continue to work it.

"Most people believe that the Iranians could not really have any nuclear weapons for at least another year or two. I would say the intelligence estimates range from one to three years."

Even if Iran got that far, he said having nuclear weapons material was different to full "weaponization" or having a capable delivery system that could threaten neighbors or enemies further afield.

"But clearly them getting to the threshold of having the weapons is what concerns everybody."