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Middle east

Iran nuclear freeze to start by January, UN envoy says

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-29

Iran will start a six-month freeze of its nuclear programme by January as part of the implementation of a landmark nuclear agreement made last week in Geneva between Tehran and six world powers, Tehran's envoy to the UN atomic watchdog said Friday.

Iran will start a six-month freeze of its nuclear programme by January as part of the implementation of a landmark nuclear agreement made last week in Geneva between Tehran and six world powers, Iran’s envoy to the UN nuclear agency said on Friday.

"We expect that either the end of December or the beginning of January we should start implementing the measures agreed by both sides," Reza Najafi, envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters.

The freeze is part of a breakthrough accord struck last weekend in Geneva between Iran and the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany (the so-called P5+1 nations). As part of the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

The temporary freeze is meant to both make it more difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and to build confidence while Tehran and the P5+1 hammer out a long-term accord.

Details of the deal

Iran has pledged to limit uranium enrichment to low fissile purities. It will also lower the purity of its stockpile of medium-enriched material, which is relatively easy to convert to weapons-grade, or convert it to another form.

Iran also committed for six months "not to make further advances" at its Fordo and Natanz uranium enrichment sites and at the Arak heavy water reactor, which could provide Iran with weapons-grade plutonium once operating.

Iran will also have to provide information on plans for new nuclear facilities, descriptions of every building at nuclear sites and updated design information on the Arak reactor, according to the text of Sunday's deal.

The Islamic republic will continue enriching uranium to low levels and it will retain its stockpile of low-enriched material.

In exchange for the freeze, Iran will receive some $7 billion (5.2 billion euros) in sanctions relief and the powers promised to impose no new embargo measures for six months if Tehran sticks to the accord.

But the vast raft of international sanctions that have badly hobbled the Iranian economy, more than halving its vital oil exports and sending inflation soaring, remain untouched.

Money and manpower needed at IAEA

Together with increased inspections, Iran's compliance will have to be verified by the IAEA. The IAEA already keeps close tabs on Iran's nuclear work, with personnel almost constantly in the country inspecting machinery and measuring stockpiles.

But under Sunday's deal this will go further, with daily IAEA visits to enrichment sites and access to centrifuge assembly sites, uranium mines, and more frequent trips to Arak heavy water reactor -  in addition to verifying the enrichment freeze.

Najafi said that "preliminary discussions" have already taken place with the agency on how these increased inspections would work.

This will mean an increased workload for the IAEA and its Japanese chief Yukiya Amano, who said Thursday that "some time"  -  and more money - would be needed to work out how to verify the deal.

"This requires a significant amount of money and manpower.... The IAEA's budget is very, very tight. I don't think we can cover everything from our own budget," Amano told reporters.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
 

Date created : 2013-11-29

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