ANKARA/BRUSSELS: A deal between Iran and six major powers intended to pave the way to a solution to a long standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will come into force on Jan. 20, the Iranian Foreign Ministry and the European Union said Sunday.
Shortly after the interim accord takes effect, an Iranian official added, Tehran and world powers would start negotiating a final settlement of their differences about activity the West suspects is aimed at obtaining nuclear arms capability.
Iran says its atomic energy program is aimed purely at electricity generation and other civilian purposes, although past Iranian attempts to hide sensitive nuclear activity from U.N. nonproliferation inspectors raised concerns.
The Nov. 24 agreement appeared to halt a slide toward another, wider Middle East war over Iran’s nuclear aspirations, but diplomats warn it will not be easy to carry out because of longstanding mutual mistrust.
The Iranian official, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said the deal would allow Iran to stop complying if it saw its partners not living up to their own commitments.
“We don’t trust them,” he told state television, reflecting ingrained suspicions between Iran and the West that underlie what have been protracted negotiations.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said the U.S. and other nations would begin to give Iran “modest relief” on economic sanctions as long as the Islamic Republic lived up to its end of the agreement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the next stage in talks would be “very difficult.”
Obama said he would veto any new sanctions passed by the U.S. Congress during talks on a long-term deal with Iran, but said Washington would be prepared to increase its sanctions if Iran fails to abide by the agreement.
“Capitals have confirmed the result of the talks in Geneva. ... The Geneva deal will be implemented from Jan. 20,” Marzieh Afkham of the Iranian Foreign Ministry told reporters in Tehran, the semiofficial Mehr news agency said.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also confirmed the date and said the sides would now ask the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to verify the deal’s implementation.
Ashton represents the six powers – the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – in contacts with Iran related to its contested nuclear program.
Senior officials from the European Union and Iran met in Geneva Thursday and Friday to iron out remaining practical questions related to the implementation of the Nov. 24 deal, under which Iran agreed to curb its most proliferation-sensitive nuclear activity – higher-level uranium enrichment – in return for some relief from Western economic sanctions.