U.N. team in Iran to oversee landmark nuclear deal

The accord is to come into effect on Jan. 20 and will last six months

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Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog arrived in Tehran Saturday in readiness to oversee implementation of a landmark deal that puts temporary curbs on Iran’s nuclear program, state media reported.

The team is led by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Iran task force, Massimo Aparo, and will hold talks with Iranian nuclear officials, the official IRNA news agency said.

It is tasked with reporting back to the Vienna-based agency on steps Tehran has to take under the deal agreed in November and finalized last week between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers.

Clinched after years of fruitless negotiations, the accord is to come into effect on January 20 and will last for six months during which Iran - among other obligations - must limit its enrichment of uranium to five percent.

It must also begin to neutralize its stockpile of uranium purified to 20 percent, a few technical steps short of weapons-grade.

Both measures are to be monitored and verified by the IAEA inspectors.

Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the inspectors would visit the two enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo in central Iran, the state broadcaster reported on its website IRIBNews.ir.

“One of their responsibilities is to inspect the centrifuge machines” - used to spin uranium at supersonic speeds - “to ensure that suspension of 20 percent enrichment has taken place,” Salehi said.

In return, Iran will be granted modest relief from Western sanctions and access to nearly 4.2 billion dollars of frozen assets in eight installments.

During the six months of the deal, Iran will hold intensive talks with the P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany - on a comprehensive agreement to allay Western concerns about its nuclear ambitions.

Western governments suspect Iran’s civil nuclear program masks a drive for a weapons capability, something Tehran strongly denies.

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