London, Feb 1 (ANI): British Defence Secretary Liam Fox has warned that Iran could develop nuclear weapons of mass destruction as early as next year.
The Daily Mail quoted Dr Fox as warning MPs that the West must not be 'caught out' by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's pursuit of his nuclear ambitions.
He further disagreed with the recent assessment of Meir Dagan, the former head of Israeli spy agency Mossad, that Iran could only develop its first nuclear weapon by the middle of this decade.
"I think that Dagan, despite his long experience, was wrong to insinuate that we should always look at the more optimistic end of the spectrum. We know from previous experience that the international community can be caught out, assuming that things are more rosy than they are," the paper quoted Dr Fox, as saying.
"We should therefore be entirely clear - it is entirely possible that Iran may be on the 2012 end of that spectrum, and act, as I say, in accordance with that warning. 'Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons as assessed. However, it does continue to pursue uranium enrichment and the construction of a heavy water reactor, both of which have military potential," he added.
His warnings are poised to strengthen the case of US and Israeli hardliners who are of the opinion that it was necessary to conduct an air strike against Iran in the next 12 months, the paper said.
Britain has been pushing for a diplomatic rather than a military resolution to deal with Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Last month, a fuel-swap plan encouraging Iran to give up uranium enrichment in exchange for enriched foreign material had failed.
Iran has been denying that it wants to possess nuclear arms, and insists that it plans to develop only nuclear energy. (ANI)