Al Jazeera America – 2014-01-12 22:29:29
(January 12, 2014) — Iran and six world powers reached an agreement Sunday on how to implement a short-term deal that was struck in November and gives the parties a six-month time frame, beginning on Jan. 20, in which to conclude a long-term agreement about Iran’s nuclear program.
The Islamic Republic will open its nuclear program to daily inspection by international experts, starting the clock on the six-month deadline for a final nuclear agreement. In exchange, Iran will get a relaxation of the financial sanctions that have been crippling its economy.
Senior officials from the European Union and Iran met in Geneva on Thursday and Friday to iron out remaining practical questions related to the implementation of the Nov. 24 deal, under which Iran agreed to curb its most sensitive nuclear work in return for some relief from Western economic sanctions.
Western powers suspect Iran has been trying to develop the ability to manufacture a nuclear weapon, but Iran has always said that its program is purely for civilian energy needs.
“Capitals have confirmed the result of the talks in Geneva … the Geneva deal will be implemented from Jan. 20,” Marzieh Afkham, spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Tehran, according to the state’s semi-official Mehr news agency.
US and EU officials also confirmed the date, and said the sides would now ask the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to verify the deal’s implementation.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi later told state television that some $4.2 billion in seized oil revenue would be released under the deal. Senior officials in President Barack Obama’s administration put the total relief figure at $7 billion.
Under the November agreement, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to 5 percent, the grade commonly used to power reactors. The deal also commits Iran to halt production of 20 percent enriched uranium â€“ which is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material â€“ and to neutralize its 20 percent stockpile over the six months.
In exchange, economic sanctions Iran faces would be eased for six months. During that time, the so-called P5+1 world powers â€“ Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States â€“ will continue negotiations with Iran on a permanent accord.
Obama said in a news release that the deal “will advance our goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
“I have no illusions about how hard it will be to achieve this objective, but for the sake of our national security and the peace and security of the world, now is the time to give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” Obama said.
EU negotiator Catherine Ashton also praised the deal, saying that “the foundations for a coherent, robust and smooth implementation … have been laid.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the deal “a decisive step forward which we can build on.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that further negotiations “represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably.”
The deal still faces potential roadblocks, however.
Among them is a measure proposed by US lawmakers to blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors, and to ban banks and companies around the world from the US market, if they help Iran export any more oil. The provisions would only take effect if Tehran violates the interim nuclear deal or lets it expire without a follow-up accord.
This has caused anxiety in Iran, where hard-liners have already called the deal a “poison chalice” and are threatening legislation to increase uranium enrichment. Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister, has also said any new sanctions would halt the deal.
In his news release, Obama said that “unprecedented sanctions and tough diplomacy helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table.” But he cautioned against implementing any more.
“Imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts to resolve this issue peacefully, and I will veto any legislation enacting new sanctions during the negotiation,” he said.
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