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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Much of the world's sights are set on Iran and its nuclear program. The U.S. and France have threatened new sanctions if Iran doesn't respond to the offer to begin discussions about its nuclear program by the end of September. The two allies will join Russia, Britain, China and Germany in talks on September 2nd to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions. NPR will also be discussing Iran's nuclear program. In the coming week, NPR programs and npr.org will have a series of reports on the ramifications of a nuclear-armed Tehran.

NPR diplomatic correspondent Mike Shuster led the team of reporters on the series, and joins us from NPR West for a preview. Hi, Mike.

MIKE SHUSTER: Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: So give us a quick rundown of what our listeners will hear on the radio and what they'll see on our Web pages.

SHUSTER: All right, a quick rundown: We're going to look at how close Iran is to getting the bomb, assuming - and everybody seems to assume that they don't have the bomb now. There are disagreements about how they might accomplish getting a bomb and how long it might take. We'll look at the issues of how to prevent it, either through diplomacy on the one hand, military option on the other. We'll also look at the options for the United States if Iran gets the bomb. And finally, we'll try to look and gauge the impact on Iran's nuclear program - of the turmoil, the political turmoil that's been taking place since the disputed presidential election in June.

HANSEN: Mike, what is really known about Iran's nuclear program? I mean there's a lot of talk, as you've said, about when Iran might acquire a nuclear weapon. But how good are the guesses?

SHUSTER: The guesses are varied, interesting, and it's hard to tell how good they are. The intelligence community - the United States intelligence community believes that Iran is several years from getting a bomb. And it also believes Iran would do it in secret. Critics of the U.S. intelligence committee believe that Iran will take its civilian nuclear program and turn that into a military program and make a bomb that way. This is a great debate and we'll explore that in one of the pieces we're doing.

HANSEN: Given that the series is going to examine the options for the United States and its allies, if Iran eventually does acquire nuclear weapons, what are those options?

SHUSTER: Well, we're going to look more closely at the issue of deterrence and the nuclear umbrella. Deterrence, of course, is the United States and possibly Israel using its nuclear arsenal to threaten retaliation, if Iran were ever to use the bomb. And the nuclear umbrella, the concept that the United States would extend to other states - in the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East -nuclear protection. All these are complex issues but they're all on the table for discussion in connection with Iran's nuclear program.

HANSEN: And, Mike, there will be reports from Israel and the Arab world in this series too, correct?

SHUSTER: Yes, indeed.

HANSEN: NPR diplomatic correspondent Mike Shuster. Listen for his reports on Iran and more from other NPR correspondents this week on MORNING EDITION and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Mike, thanks a lot.

SHUSTER: You're welcome, Liane.

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