In a series of carefully choreographed steps, the United States
eased some economic sanctions on Iran Monday after international
inspectors confirmed that Tehran had suspended high-level enrichment of
uranium at key nuclear facilities.
The United States
and its allies have ratcheted up economic sanctions over several years
to stop what it charged was Iran's attempt to build nuclear weapons.
Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful
Iran will get around $7 billion in installments
over the next six months while all sides negotiate a permanent treaty.
The Obama administration has emphasized that sanctions have only been
suspended and could be reimposed if Iran should renege on its treaty
The sequence of events on Monday were spelled out in an interim
agreement that went into effect Monday. The deal with Iran was struck in
Geneva in November between Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and
the United States.
The European Union also voted to suspend some
of the economic sanctions Monday after International Atomic Energy
Agency monitors confirmed that Iran had taken steps spelled out under
the deal, which was brokered by EU foreign policy chief Catherine
IAEA inspectors on hand in the Natanz facility in central
Iran confirmed that enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent had been
suspended at the plant by disconnecting cascades of centrifuges,
according to Iranian state TV.
They then left to monitor a similar suspension at Fordo, another uranium enrichment site in central Iran.
the Geneva deal, Iran agreed to halt its 20 per cent enrichment program
-- which is just steps away from bomb-making materials -- but continue
enrichment up to 5 percent.
The Iranian news agency said Iran also
began converting part of its stockpile of 20 per cent enriched uranium
to oxide, which can be used to produce nuclear fuel but is difficult to
reconvert for weapons use.
The White House hailed Iran's actions as "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," White House press secretary Jay
Carney said in a statement. "Iran has also begun to provide the IAEA
with increased transparency into the Iranian nuclear program, through
more frequent and intrusive inspections and the expanded provision of
information to the IAEA. Taken together, these concrete actions
represent an important step forward."
British Foreign Secretary
William Hague, who voted with other EU foreign ministers in Brussels to
suspend some of the sanctions, called the deal "an important milestone."
foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on his Facebook page that he
hoped this first step would "be of positive outcomes for the country
and would bring further peace and stability to the region and the
world," the IRNA Iranian news agency reported.
a conference call with reporters, senior Obama administration officials
said that with the suspension of sanctions Iran will not necessarily
now largely "be open for business," emphasizing that the U.S. would
reach out to its counterparts to remind them of the continuing
Regarding the desire of some in Congress to
impose harsher sanctions, one of the officials said that Iran is
starting to implement the steps and that "it would not be a wise time to
take" take actions that "we don't need."
These officials insisted on anonymity to discuss a diplomatic matter they were not authorized to talk about by name.