This post was updated at 11:40 a.m. ET.
The United States and European Union say they will lift some sanctions against Iran after reports from international inspectors that Tehran has suspended high-level enrichment of uranium under an interim pact to scale back its nuclear program.
The Associated Press reports:
“The deal that went into effect Monday was worked out in talks brokered by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The payoff to Iran should be an influx of billions of dollars over the next six months into the Islamic republic’s shaky economy.”
“British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who voted with other EU foreign ministers in Brussels to suspend some of the sanctions for six months, called the deal “an important milestone.”
A statement released Monday by White House press secretary Jay Carney commented on the report that Iran had complied with stopping uranium enrichment, calling it “an important step forward.”
These actions represent the first time in nearly a decade that Iran has verifiably enacted measures to halt progress on its nuclear program, and roll it back in key respects,” Carney said.
“In reciprocation for Iran’s concrete actions, the United States and its P5+1 partners – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union – will today follow through on our commitment to begin to provide the modest relief agreed to with Iran,” he said. “At the same time, we will continue our aggressive enforcement of the sanctions measures that will remain in place throughout this six-month period.”
The six-month deal was reached earlier this month and “halts the most worrisome nuclear work and rolls back some of Iran’s sophisticated advances, but it stops far short of ensuring that the country can never develop a weapon if it chooses to do so,” according to The Washington Post.
“Nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ watchdog group, who will monitor the Iranian elements of the agreement, arrived in Tehran over the weekend, local news media reported.”
“Iranian leaders, including some hard-liners, have welcomed the deal, which allows the nation to freely export petrochemical products, have sanctions lifted on gold and precious metals, and create a special banking channel to facilitate payments for goods like food and medicine. These products were not affected by sanctions in the past but could not be paid for because of restrictions on all international financial transactions with Iran.”
As NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports on Morning Edition, the interim agreement between Iran and the six world powers known “P5+1” addresses the enrichment of uranium, which could be used to produce a bomb, but leaves aside the heavy-water reactor being built at Arak, which could produce plutonium for an ever-deadlier hydrogen bomb:
Peter says: “Experts say there are ways to ensure that Iran doesn’t create plutonium, useful for a nuclear weapon, from the reactor’s spent fuel. But they would entail concessions that deeply disturb hardliners on both sides.”