Iran agreement reached over nuclear programme
Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.
The deal between the Islamic state and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down after more than four days of negotiations.
"We have reached an agreement," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on his Twitter feed. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also confirmed the deal.
Iran will get access to $4.2 billion in foreign exchange as part of the accord, a Western diplomat said. No other details of the agreement were immediately available.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of the five other world powers joined the negotiations with Iran early on Saturday as the two sides appeared to be edging closer to a long-sought preliminary agreement.
The talks were aimed at finding a package of confidence-building steps to ease decades of tensions and banish the specter of a Middle East war over Tehran's nuclear aspirations.
The Western powers' goal had been to cap Iran's nuclear energy programme, which has a history of evading U.N. inspections and investigations, to remove any risk of Tehran covertly refining uranium to a level suitable for bombs.
Tehran denies it would ever "weaponise" enrichment.
The draft deal that had been under discussion in Geneva would see Iran suspend its higher-grade uranium enrichment in exchange for the release of billions of dollars in Iranian funds frozen in foreign bank accounts, and renewed trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and aircraft parts.
Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants - Iran's stated goal - but also provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb if refined much further.
Diplomacy was stepped up after the landslide election of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, as Iranian president in June, replacing bellicose nationalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani aims to mend fences with big powers and get sanctions lifted. He obtained crucial public backing from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, keeping powerful hardline critics at bay.
On a Twitter account widely recognised as representing Rouhani, a message said after the agreement was announced, "Iranian people's vote for moderation & constructive engagement + tireless efforts by negotiating teams are to open new horizons."
The OPEC producer rejects suspicions it is trying covertly to develop the means to produce nuclear weapons, saying it is stockpiling nuclear material for future atomic power plants.
Israel says the deal being offered would give Iran more time to master nuclear technology and amass potential bomb fuel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told local media in Moscow that Iran was essentially given an "unbelievable Christmas present - the capacity to maintain this (nuclear) breakout capability for practically no concessions at all".
Following are key portions of the text of a U.S. fact sheet on the agreement:
- Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5 percent and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5 percent.
- Iran has committed to neutralise its stockpile of near -20 percent uranium; dilute below 5 percent or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.
Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity:
- Not install additional centrifuges of any type
- Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
- Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium
- Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges
- Not construct additional enrichment facilities.
Iran has committed to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5 percent stockpile:
- Not increase its stockpile of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5 percent enriched uranium is converted into oxide.
Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track. Iran has committed to:
- Not commission the Arak reactor.
- Not fuel the Arak reactor.
- Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.
- No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.
- Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.
- Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.
- Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.
Iran has committed to:
- Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring. This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and shorten detection time for any non-compliance.
- Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.- Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.
- Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.
- Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.
- Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.
- Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran's IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.HASH(0x21871f4)
The IAEA will be called upon to perform many of these verification steps, consistent with their ongoing inspection role in Iran. In addition, the P5+1 and Iran have committed to establishing a Joint Commission to work with the IAEA to monitor implementation and address issues that may arise.
The Joint Commission will also work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present concerns with respect to Iran's nuclear programme, including the possible military dimension of Iran's nuclear programme and Iran's activities at Parchin.HASH(0x2850288)
Limited, Temporary, Reversible Relief
In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief. Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:
- Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
- Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran's auto sector, and Iran's petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.
- License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.
- Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels - levels that are 60 percent less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in instalments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.- Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognised educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.
- Facilitate humanitarian transactions that are already allowed by U.S. law. Humanitarian transactions have been explicitly exempted from sanctions by Congress so this channel will not provide Iran access to any new source of funds. Humanitarian transactions are those related to Iran's purchase of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices; we would also facilitate transactions for medical expenses incurred abroad. We will establish this channel for the benefit of the Iranian people.
A Comprehensive Solution
- During the six-month initial phase, the P5+1 will negotiate the contours of a comprehensive solution. Thus far, the outline of the general parameters of the comprehensive solution envisions concrete steps to give the international community confidence that Iran's nuclear activities will be exclusively peaceful.
With respect to this comprehensive resolution: nothing is agreed to with respect to a comprehensive solution until everything is agreed to.
Over the next six months, we will determine whether there is a solution that gives us sufficient confidence that the Iranian programme is peaceful. If Iran cannot address our concerns, we are prepared to increase sanctions and pressure.