Iran's atomic energy chief said Monday that the Islamic republic had begun shutting down centrifuges used to enrich uranium, upholding it's half of the nuclear deal reached with the U.S. and other major world powers earlier this year, and he suggested Tehran's obligations under the first phase of that agreement could be met within a couple months.
"We have already started to take our measures vis-a-vis the removal of the centrifuge machines -- the extra centrifuge machines," Ali Akbar Salehi told Japan's public broadcaster NHK, according to the Reuters news agency.
The U.S. and five other world powers, known collectively as the P5+1, reached a deal in July to freeze Iran's nuclear development for the next decade and disassemble some key suspect nuclear sites in exchange for gradual sanctions relief that rolls out as Iran complies with a multi-step process.
Under the terms of the deal, two-thirds of Iran's centrifuges were to be removed. About 19,000 were installed, and Iran was to reduce that number to to 6,104 -- with only 5,060 of these actually enriching uranium for 10 years.
It was not clear from Salehi's statement how quickly the decommissioning of the centrifuges was taking place.
Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium is also to be destroyed under the terms of the agreement.
In his remarks, according to NHK, Salehi stressed the importance of there being "balance" in the implementation of the nuclear accord; a clear reference to Iran's insistence that economic sanctions which have crippled its economy for years be lifted promptly once Tehran meets its obligations.
Reuters reported also that a group of about 20 hardline conservative clerics -- some of the lawmakers who have opposed the nuclear talks with the U.S. since the outset -- penned a letter to President Hassan Rouhani complaining that the dismantling of centrifuges was taking place too quickly.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stated his approval of the nuclear deal, allowing work to begin, but the lawmakers said the pace at which the centrifuges are being decommissioned is in violation of the Ayatollah's directives, according to Reuters.
The U.S. has said it will begin to ease sanctions against Iran once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms that Iran has met its end of the bargain.
Meanwhile, with the nuclear agreement seeming to fulfil its purpose and reign in Iran's nuclear enrichment work -- at least in the short term -- Iranian lawmakers made it abundantly clear with a vote in Parliament that relations with the United States were still... tenuous.
In a vote held Monday, lawmakers opted overwhelmingly to continue pushing the "Death to America" slogan chanted across the country on Fridays, after Muslim prayer services, and with special zeal every November 4th -- the day Iran commemorates the beginning of the 1977 siege on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Diplomatic relations between the two nations have been officially frozen since that 444-day ordeal, and have only begun to thaw with the nuclear talks during the last couple years.
"The martyr-nurturing nation of Iran is not at all prepared to abandon the slogan of 'Death to America' under the pretext of a nuclear agreement," 192 members of Iran's parliament, which has a total of 290 seats, said in a statement, according to French news agency AFP.
The group said the slogan had become "a symbol of the Islamic republic and all struggling nations."
Asked directly about the slogan, along with the common Iranian reference to the U.S. as the "Great Satan," by "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft earlier this year, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said years of mistrust would "not go away soon."
"This slogan that is chanted is not a slogan against the American people. Our people respect the American people. The Iranian people are not looking for war with any country. But at the same time the policies of the United States have been against the national interests of Iranian people. It's understandable that people will demonstrate sensitivity to this issue. When the people rose up against the shah, the United States aggressively supported the shah until the last moments. In the eight-year war with Iraq, the Americans supported Saddam. People will not forget these things. We cannot forget the past, but at the same time our gaze must be towards the future," Rouhani told Kroft.