Author Topic: Iran nuclear: Curbs on uranium enrichment begin, state TV says  (Read 1643 times)

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Iran nuclear: Curbs on uranium enrichment begin, state TV says

 20 January 2014 Last updated at 10:02 GMT

Iran has begun curbing uranium enrichment, state TV says, under a nuclear deal which will also trigger an easing of international sanctions.

Centrifuges used for enrichment were disconnected at the Nantaz plant, according to TV.

Diplomats and officials close to the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, confirmed that the process had begun.

The move is part of a nuclear deal reached with the US, Russia, China and European powers last November.

Curbs on enrichment should pave the way for partial suspension of EU and US sanctions, allowing Iran to restart petrochemical exports and trade in gold, worth billions of dollars.


"The IAEA inspectors in the Natanz plant are disconnecting cascades," the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said. "The sanctions iceberg against Iran is melting."

The IAEA would not comment officially on the results of its inspection, but told the BBC that a report had been sent to the parties to the nuclear agreement.

An envoy to the UN agency told AFP news agency that Iran had started implementing its side of the deal: "It's all fine, all their requirements have been fulfilled." Reuters said it had obtained a leaked copy of the inspectors' report.

The agreement is designed to prevent Teheran developing atomic weapons, though it denies trying to do so, saying its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

Once it is happy that Iran has begun restricting uranium enrichment, the EU is expected to start the process of easing sanctions.

Ministers - including UK Foreign Secretary William Hague - are then likely to lead their EU counterparts in voting unanimously in favour of a partial lifting of the sanctions, which have been in place against Iran since 2006.

Under the terms of the agreement, reached with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - plus Germany, Iran will, according to US officials:

    Halt enrichment of uranium above 5% purity.
    Dilute its stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium, such that all will be gone within six months
    Allow daily access to the Fordo uranium enrichment site near the holy city of Qom
    Permit monthly inspections at the Arak heavy water reactor

Iran's nuclear sites

In return, US President Barack Obama has said the US and the other five powers over the next six months will begin to implement "modest relief" so long as Iran fulfils its obligations.

"Meanwhile, we will continue to vigorously enforce the broader sanctions regime, and if Iran fails to meet its commitments we will move to increase our sanctions," he said.

The current six-month agreement is designed to provide breathing space while a more permanent deal can be reached.

Sounding a note of caution, former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said that if Iran decided to renege on the deal, it would only need two to three weeks to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.