"Intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran's government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles," The Washington Post reports this morning.
It cites "Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings" as its sources and says the claims will be part of a report this week from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Post adds that "U.S. intelligence officials maintain that Iran's leaders have not decided whether to build nuclear weapons but are intent on gathering all the components and skills so they can quickly assemble a bomb if they choose to." Iran leaders, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have maintained the nation only wants to use nuclear technology to generate power and for other peaceful purposes.
Today's report comes at a sensitive moment. As Reuters says, the news "has been preceded by media speculation in Israel of military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites" and will almost certainly lead to a push by the U.S. and other nations "for more sanctions" on Iran.
Israel's Haaretz writes that the IAEA is expected to say "Iranian scientists acquired the [nuclear] knowledge with the help of weapons scientists from Russia, Pakistan and North Korea."
According to The Guardian, after the report is almost surely leaked on Wednesday, "it will be the IAEA and its credibility that will become the center of the political battle. Iran's foreign minister has already rejected the nuclear weapons report as 'counterfeit,' and Tehran is expected to launch an offensive against the agency's director-general, Yukiya Amano."
On Iran's semi-official Press TV website today, there's this headline: "IAEA Documents Against Iran, Forged." In that report, "Iranian scholar and political analyst Dr. Mohammad Marandi" says "there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran at any point has ever pursued nuclear weapons and the Iranians have on many occasions refuted these allegations. The documents were forged."