VIENNA, (Reuters) – The U.N. atomic watchdog yesterday issued a report strongly suggesting Tehran had a nuclear weapons programme for years, but, in a sign of the shift in ties since Tehran’s deal with major powers in July, Washington said it was not concerned.
Under that agreement, also reached with France, Britain, Germany, China, and Russia, sanctions against Tehran will be lifted in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities, which the United States long said were linked to weapons.
In a report required under that deal, titled “Final Assessment of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme”, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gave its clearest assessment of Iran’s past activities in more than a decade of investigation.
“The Agency assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort,” the IAEA said in the confidential report to its Board of Governors viewed by Reuters.
Those activities continued after 2003, though in a less coordinated manner, and there was no credible indication of any beyond 2009, the agency said.
The United States, which for years locked horns with Iran over its nuclear programme and dismissed its assertions that its aims were entirely peaceful, welcomed the finding.
“The IAEA report was consistent with what the United States has long assessed with high confidence,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “And that is Iran had a nuclear weapons programme that was halted in 2003.”
Toner said the report meant the IAEA would be able to close the file on whether Iran had sought nuclear weapons in the past, something Iran has been insisting on if it is to uphold its end of the deal with major powers.