Washington: Iran nuclear deal to take effect

The White House confirms that Iran nuclear agreement would take effect on Jan. 20

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The White House confirmed on Sunday that the landmark agreement Iran clinched with world powers on its disputed nuclear program will take effect from Jan. 20, Agence France-Presse reported.

“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,” a statement from the White House said.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he has “no illusions” on the difficulty of reaching a final agreement with Iran.

“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,” Obama said.

He added that Washington would “continue to vigorously enforce the broader sanctions regime, and if Iran fails to meet its commitments we will move to increase our sanctions.”

But he warned: “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.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Jan. 20 start date is “a critical, significant step forward.”

“As of that day, for the first time in almost a decade, Iran’s nuclear program will not be able to advance, and parts of it will be rolled back, while we start negotiating a comprehensive agreement to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s program,” he said in a statement.

He added: “Iran will voluntarily take immediate and important steps between now and January 20 to halt the progress of its nuclear program.”

He also descried the next stage in talks with Iran as “very difficult.”

The U.S. confirmation comes after Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told Mehr news agency that the deal will take effect.

“The implementation of the joint plan of action will start from Jan. 20,” Afkham said.

Iran’s official state news agency IRNA also quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi confirming the news without offering any other details.

Iran and the European Union agreed Friday on how to implement the deal, but it still must be approved by each country before it can take effect.

The EU represents the so-called P5+1 group of world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- in the decade-long nuclear negotiations with Iran.

European Union negotiator Catherine Ashton praised the deal on Sunday 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.”

Under the deal reached in November, Tehran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for receiving modest relief from international sanctions and a promise by Western powers not to impose new measures against its hard-hit economy.

On Sunday, a senior U.S. official said that Iran will receive some sanctions relief from the first day of the implementation of the Nov. 24 Iran nuclear deal, including the suspension of sanctions on Iran’s exports of petrochemicals.

The official told reporters such immediate relief -- which is contingent on the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirming that Tehran is carrying out the deal --- would also apply to imports for its auto manufacturing sector and trade in gold and other precious metals.

(With AFP, Reuters and Associated Press)

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