Multilateral efforts are under way to defuse the crisis, which is having the knock-on effect in Japan of encouraging the only country to have been hit by an atomic bomb to build its own. Japan has a large civil nuclear power sector, ample stockpiles of plutonium, and the technological and scientific resources to obtain a nuclear bomb swiftly.
A dripfeed of revelations from UN inspectors over recent months is hardening suspicions that Tehran is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, or creating the wherewithal. It was last week presented with an ultimatum by the UN: reveal all by the end of next month and allow unrestricted inspections.
Recent discoveries and question marks include the tracing of two different types of weapons-grade uranium at an underground uranium enrichment centre being built in central Iran, the disclosure that the programme goes back to 1985 and not 1997 as previously stated, evidence of uranium metal conversion testing -- needed for weapons but not for power stations -- and substantial rebuilding at a suspect Tehran facility, apparently to frustrate UN inspections and environmental sampling for radioactive materials.