TEHRAN, Iran - Iran and six world powers have agreed on how to implement a nuclear deal struck in November, with its terms starting from Jan. 20, the White House said Sunday.
The announcement, made first by Iranian officials and later confirmed elsewhere, starts a six-month clock for a final deal to be struck over the Islamic Republic's contested nuclear program. It also signals an easing of the financial sanctions crippling Iran's economy, though some U.S. lawmakers have called for tough measures against the country despite ongoing negotiations.
A diplomatic source told Reuters on Monday that world powers and Iran will "very likely" resume negotiations on the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions in February, shortly after the interim,six-month deal restricting its atomic work goes into effect.
“Beginning January 20th, Iran will for the first time start eliminating
its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium and dismantling some of the
infrastructure that makes such enrichment possible,” President Obama said in a statement Sunday.
“Iran has agreed to limit its enrichment capability by not installing or starting
up additional centrifuges or using next-generation centrifuges. New and more
frequent inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites will allow the world to verify
that Iran is keeping its commitments. Taken together, these and other steps
will advance our goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
Iranian’s official state news agency also reported the news, quoting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, but did not offer further details.
Araghchi later told state television some $4.2 billion in seized oil revenue would be released under the deal. Senior officials in U.S. President Barack Obama's administration put the total figure at $7 billion. U.S. officials told reporters Sunday the most immediate sanctions that will be suspended will be on Iran's imports of goods and services for autos, oil, gold and precious metals, reports CBS News' Margaret Brennan.
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 stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium - which is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material - and to neutralize its 20 percent stockpile.
In exchange, economic sanctions Iran faces would be eased for a period of six months. During that time, the world powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - would continue negotiations with Iran on a permanent deal. Mr. Obama reiterated that the U.S. will continue to pursue a broader sanctions regime and will even increase economic penalties if Iran does not meet its commitments under the deal.
European Union negotiator Catherine Ashton praised the deal in a statement, saying "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."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the deal in a statement as well, saying further negotiations "represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably."
The West fears Iran's nuclear program could allow it to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes, such as medical research and power generation. Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency reported Sunday that under the terms of the deal, Iran will guarantee that it won't try to attain nuclear arms "under any circumstance." However, Araghchi stressed Iran could resume production of 20 percent uranium in "one day" if it chose.
U.S. lawmakers have expressed doubts about whether the U.S. can trust Iran’s promises and many senators – including Mr. Obama’s Democratic allies – are moving to implement a fresh round of sanctions. The White House has pushed back on their efforts and Mr. Obama has repeatedly pledged to veto any sanctions legislation that came across his desk.
“Unprecedented sanctions and tough diplomacy helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table, and I’m grateful to our partners in Congress who share our goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," the president said Sunday. "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.”
Kerry echoed Mr. Obama’s threat with a plea for cooperation.
“We now have an obligation to give our diplomats and experts every chance to succeed in these difficult negotiations," Kerry said. "Now is not the time for politics. Now is the time for statesmanship, for the good of our country, the region, and the world.”
The continued threat of new sanctions from the U.S. Congress 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 also said any new sanctions would halt the deal.