Nightly News   |  January 20, 2014

Sanctions and Syria: Iran’s step forward — and back

While Iran was rewarded for limiting its nuclear enrichment program, the country’s invitation to partake in UN-led Syria peace talks was revoked.

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>>> the federal government said something today about iran that we don't hear very often. they said that iran has taken, quote, concrete actions that represent an important step forward. this came after iran moved to scale back its nuclear program , and the u.s. and europe started to lift some sanctions as part of that interim agreement . we get the story tonight from nbc's andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: the seal of approval came from u.n. weapons inspectors today. disconnecting the centrifuges producing iran 's high-grade 20% enriched uranium . fuel that can easily be upgraded to power a nuclear weapon .

>> everything going as planned. the 20% enrichment has been stopped.

>> reporter: iran has complied by limiting its uranium enrichment to lower levels, granting full access to u.n. inspectors diluting current uranium stockpiles. halting construction on a separate plutonium plant. within hours, europe and washington lifted some of the sanctions that have cripple iran 's economy, permitting some oil exports, imports of auto and airplane parts, and trade in gold and other precious metals .

>> the suspension of these sanctions will enter into force today.

>> reporter: as expected, israel's prime minister, netanyahu, said today, iran 's entire program should be shut down. and now comes the hard part, a final agreement requiring iran to disclose all its nuclear secrets.

>> it's going to have to answer basic questions about did iran work on nuclear weapons in the past, and do some of those efforts continue.

>> reporter: today's breakthrough came 33 years to the today after the american diplomats were freed. now iran 's new president rouhani offers hope of a new beginning, unless rouhani is blocked by hard liners.

>> a major open question is whether president rouhani can actually implement any deal inside iran .

>> reporter: or unless the deal is blocked by its many critics in congress. what iran is cooperating on the nuclear issue, it is still arming president assad. so after intense pressure from the u.s., tonight the u.n. has withdrawn its invitation to iran to take part in peace talks this week on syria. the first talk since the war started more than two years ago. brian?

>> andrea mitchell in our d.c. newsroom tonight, thanks.