World powers may have to assess Iran nuclear program without U.N. report

The U.N. is not likely to finish assessment of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons research within the next month

The United Nations is not likely to complete its assessment of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons research within the next two months, creating a new complication for the international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, a U.N. report indicated Friday.

The quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said the U.N. watchdog intended to conduct a comprehensive “system assessment” of all the evidence on the issue of whether Iran has sought to gain a nuclear weapons capability.

The scope of this study probably means that the six world powers trying to negotiate a deal with Iran over its nuclear program won’t have the U.N.’s final judgment on Iran’s disputed past activities by July 20, when they hope to complete a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activities.

This approach leaves to the six world powers the tough job of deciding whether Iran has sought a nuclear capability, adding a further challenge to a negotiation that is already difficult, said David Albright, a nuclear weapons specialist with the Institute for Science and International Security.

The exhaustive approach “does make sense – but the problem is in the timing,” said Albright, a former weapons inspector. “They’re going to take their sweet time; they don’t understand the need to speed up.”

The quarterly report indicated that Iran has complied with much, but not yet all, of what is required of it under the interim nuclear deal signed with the world powers in November. Iranian officials have provided more information to the IAEA on its investigation into possible military dimensions of its nuclear program.

But the report indicated that some questions are still unanswered.

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