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Iran tried to build nuke weapons: UN report

Iran tried to build nuke weapons: UN report
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Iran carried out work to build a nuclear weapon in previous years, but that effort never passed initial stages, a United Nations agency said in a confidential report revealed on Wednesday.

The conclusion follows this year’s finalization of the international nuclear deal with Iran and is sure to prompt concerns about Tehran’s willingness to implement that pact.

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Yet the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was widely shared Wednesday, claimed that Iran carried out only preliminary steps to building a nuclear bomb and ceased those activities at least five years ago.

“A range of relevant activities to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003,” IAEA said.

However, the efforts “did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities,” the agency added.

“The Agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.”

The report on Iran’s past nuclear work was demanded under the nuclear deal, which the Obama administration helped secure despite significant opposition from Republicans and many Democrats.

Multiple critics had warned that Iran would stonewall international investigators’ attempts to fully probe its past nuclear activities. Multiple lawmakers were incensed that the U.N. agency refused to detail to Congress its agreement with Iran for investigating the nuclear history, in what critics claimed was a secret side deal.

Defenders of the agreement acknowledged the problems with the process but nonetheless insisted that American, Israeli and other nations’ intelligence agencies had been able to peer deeply into the Iranian process and understood what work it had completed in past years.

The IAEA report “is consistent with what the United States has long assessed with high confidence,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday.

The report will officially remain secret until Dec. 15, when the IAEA’s board of governors will meet to consider it. 

The State Department was circulating the analysis around Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Toner said. Later in the day, two Obama administration officials are scheduled to brief lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the IAEA report in a closed, top-secret hearing.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said the report was proof that the country had never seriously worked to build a nuclear bomb.

“Therefore, all measures over the past issues have completely concluded” and questions about past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program have “been left behind,” he said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency

The report is another step toward implementation of the agreement, which will ease sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. Implementation will likely not occur for months, however, until the IAEA certifies that Iran has shut off thousands of centrifuges, reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium and taken other steps to limit any nuclear ambitions.   

“Frankly, once the [Iran deal] is implemented, that will have assurance that these kinds of past activities cannot occur again,” Toner said. “We’ll have that ability to go in and see what’s going on, so if we do see a recurrence of this past activity, we’ll be able to immediately address it.”

- Updated at 2:31 p.m.