U.N. agency gives green light to lifting of Iran sanctions

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Kerry: 'We Have Reached Implementation Day'

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog on Saturday confirmed that Iran has curtailed its nuclear program as agreed with world powers, paving the way for the almost immediate lifting of crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

"Iran has carried out all measures required under the (July deal) to enable Implementation Day (of the deal) to occur," the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

The announcement triggers the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States, United Nations and European Union within hours or days.

Earlier on Saturday, Iran and the United States eased decades of tension with the announcement of a prisoner swap.

With the removal of the sanctions, oil-producer Iran will now be back on the world economic stage.


Photos of 10 detained U.S. sailors:

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Iran releases detained US sailors
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U.N. agency gives green light to lifting of Iran sanctions
This picture released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. The nine men and one woman were being held at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf after being detained nearby on Tuesday.(Sepahnews via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows American Navy boats in custody of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards sort out detained American sailors' weapons in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows American Navy boat in custody of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. (Sepahnews via AP)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. (Sepahnews via AP)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. (Sepahnews via AP)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. (Sepahnews via AP)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows American Navy boats in custody of the guards in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. (Sepahnews via AP)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows American Navy boats in custody of the guards in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. (Sepahnews via AP)
In this Nov. 15, 2014, photo, a Riverine Command Boat from Costal Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 2 escorts the USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (LaTunya Howard/U.S. Navy via AP)
This Nov. 2, 2015, image provided by the U.S. Navy, shows Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 805 in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Torrey W. Lee/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this Oct. 30, 2015, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 805, along with its crew members, is shown transiting through rough seas during patrol operations in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Torrey W. Lee/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this June 27, 2013, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a Riverine Command Boat assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 4, Task Group 56.7.4, transits open water in the Persian Gulf. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Lewis/U.S. Navy via AP)
This Nov. 2, 2015, image provided by the U.S. Navy, shows Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 805 in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Torrey W. Lee/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this Feb. 23, 2013, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 2 perform an âEâ stop while conducting patrol operations. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Blake Midnight/U.S. Navy via AP)
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The sanctions, mostly imposed in the last five years, have cut off the country of 80 million people from the global financial system, drastically reduced Iran's exports and imposed severe economic hardship on ordinary Iranians.

Iran's emergence from economic isolation could shift the geopolitical balance of the Middle East where Iran is the leading Shi'ite Muslim power and its allies are fighting proxy wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen against allies of its main Sunni Muslim regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

Leading up to the sanctions announcement, the United States and Iran took steps to thaw the cold relations between the two countries which have frequently locked horns since Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1979.

In an unusual move, President Barack Obama pardoned three Iranian-Americans charged for violating sanctions against Iran, a lawyer for one of the men said, while prosecutors moved to drop charges against four Iranians outside the United States.

Iran will also free five Americans including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and a Christian minister.

Iran's expected return to an already glutted oil market is one of the factors contributing to a global rout in oil prices, which fell below $30 a barrel this week for the first time in 12 years.

Tehran says it could boost exports by 500,000 barrels per day within weeks.

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