TEHRAN — Iran and six world powers have agreed on how to implement a nuclear deal struck in November, with its terms starting from January 20, the Islamic Republic’s official state news agency reported Sunday.
The report from IRNA quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi confirming the news, without offering any other details. The semi-official ISNA news agency said a joint statement on the agreement would be released in Geneva and Tehran.
The announcement came after Araqchi said Friday that an initial agreement had been reached and all sides would respond to it by Sunday.
Also Sunday, a senior US official told Reuters that on February 1, Iran would receive the first installment of its $4.2 billion in blocked overseas funds. The first payment was slated at $550 million.
US President Barack Obama hailed the agreement to implement the deal as a step to “advance our goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
“With today’s agreement, we have made concrete progress,” he said in a statement. “I welcome this important step forward, and we will now focus on the critical work of pursuing a comprehensive resolution that addresses our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. 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.”
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.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the deal as well, saying further negotiations “represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably.”
British Foreign Minister William Hague wrote on Twitter that the sides had come together to set a date for implementation.
I can confirm we have reached E3+3 agreement with #Iran to implement the interim nuclear agreement
— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) January 12, 2014
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, some 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.
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. ISNA also reported Sunday that under the terms of the deal, Iran will guarantee that it won’t try to attain nuclear arms “under any circumstance.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed the deal as a “historic mistake,” and demands that Iran be stripped of all enrichment capability and all of its military-nuclear capabilities.
US lawmakers are proposing to blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors and 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.
However, that has caused anxiety in Iran, where hard-liners have already called the deal a “poison chalice” and are threatening legislation to increase uranium enrichment.
In his statement, Obama said “unprecedented sanctions and tough diplomacy helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table,” but 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.