Iran and the P5+1 - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - agreed to implement a nuclear deal which will see a six-month freeze on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions against Tehran, Iranian state media reported on Sunday. The news came two days after Iran's foreign minister announced negotiations had reached their final stages, pending approval from the respective governments of the P5+1.
"Capitals have confirmed the result of the talks in Geneva,"Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham said, according to both IRNA and Mehr news agencies.
"The implementation of the joint plan of action will [begin] January 20," Afkham added.
On Friday, negotiators in Geneva confirmed that talks on a number of issues delaying the accord's implementation had proved "constructive" and that the six world power's governments needed only to approve framework agreement.
Officials on Sunday said Iran would get the first instalment of blocked funds, totalling some $550 million (400 million euros), by around February 1. A total of $4.2 billion in frozen assets is to be released by the middle of this year, should the deal roll ahead as planned.
Obama, Ashton confirm endorsement
US President Barack Obama and the EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, were reported to have confirmed the announcement.
"The foundations for a coherent, robust and smooth implementation...have been laid," Ashton said according to news agency DPA, adding that all of the capitals had endorsed it.
The White House also verified the news.
"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," the White House said in a statement.
However, it said President Obama had warned that the P5+1 would "move to increase [their] sanctions" should Iran not uphold the terms of the agreement.
A first step
Expert teams from the P5+1 and Iran met several times after the original nuclear scale-back program was announced in November. They discussed measures to fine-tune the plan, but progressed slowed in the face of political discord between Washington and Tehran. The terms of the agreement, in particular the West's oversight in Iran's implementation, also became a sticking point.
Tehran's nuclear program, which it has contended serves to bolster its electricity sources, has been a stumbling block in international relations with the country and the catalyst for crippling Western sanctions.
The detrimental effects of the sanctions, plus the election of a new, more moderate president shifted Iran's foreign policy toward the West during 2013. In November, President Hassan Rouhani agreed to a six-month freeze on nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.
The current agreement is designed as a first step toward ensuring Iran does not acquire a nuclear arsenal. Under the interim plan, Iran has agreed to cap its uranium enrichment level to 5 percent - well below the 90 percent threshold level required to build a nuclear warhead. It has also agreed to "neutralize" its existing self-confirmed stockpile of 20 percent.
kms/dr (AP, AFP)