U.S. eases some 'modest' sanctions against Iran

Jan. 20, 2014 at 1:16 PM
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TEHRAN, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The United States eased some sanctions against Iran Monday after verifying Iran fulfilled initial commitments as part of a November agreement, officials said.

"Today [Monday], the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] verified that Iran has fulfilled its initial nuclear commitments pursuant" to a Joint Plan of Action reached between Iran and negotiators, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement. "Accordingly, the [Obama] administration has taken the necessary steps to pause efforts to further reduce Iranian crude oil exports, allowing the six current customers of Iranian oil to maintain their purchases at current reduced levels for the duration of the JPOA."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the IAEA verified and told technical experts representing so-called P5-plus-1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- "that Iran has, among other things, stopped producing 20 percent enriched uranium, has disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce it, has begun diluting its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and has not installed additional centrifuges at Natanz or Fordow."

The treasury statement said the Obama administration also was working with its partners and Iran to set up financial channels for Iran to make "payments for humanitarian transactions and medical expenses, university tuition payments for Iranian students studying abroad, and the payment of Iran's United Nations obligations."

The United States also "took the necessary actions to suspend for the duration of the JPOA sanctions on non-U.S. persons engaged in transactions related to Iran's petrochemical exports, certain trade in gold and precious metals with Iran, and the provision of goods and services to Iran's automotive sector," the Treasury Department said. The government also will license transactions for spare parts, inspections, and associated services necessary for safety for some of Iran's aircraft.

While some sanctions, characterized by the United States as "modest," have been eased, the United States "will continue our aggressive enforcement of the sanctions measures that will remain in place throughout this six-month period," Carney said.

Moving forward, Carney said, Iran, the European Union, the P5-plus-1, EU and Iran will begin negotiating a long-term, comprehensive plan to address Iran's nuclear program.

"The United States remains committed to using strong and disciplined diplomacy to reach a peaceful resolution that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Carney said.

The State Department said Undersecretary Wendy Sherman will be in Switzerland, through Friday to meet with other members of the negotiating team on the next steps with Iran. After her meeting in Geneva, Sherman will join U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Montreux, Switzerland, for negotiation discussion on Syria.

"We are heading in a direction in which not only the sanctions are being lifted, but also Iran's political isolation is coming to an end," Mohammad Sadr, an adviser to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, told the Iranian Students News Agency on the eve of the suspension of some sanctions.

"It will take time, but these two fundamental problems will be solved," Sadr said.

The interim deal was signed in Geneva Nov. 24.

The relief will let Iran freely export petrochemical products, end sanctions on gold and precious metals, and create a special banking channel so Iran can make payments for food, medicine and other goods it could not pay for because of the international restrictions on financial transactions.

If Iran starts neutralizing the parts of its stockpile currently enriched to 20 percent, as much as $4.2 billion of its funds will be released, the New York Times said.

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