First steps agreed on Iranian enrichment

25 November 2013

Iran is to limit its uranium enrichment activities in return for some easing of economic sanctions. The new agreement with the P5+1 countries is seen as a significant step towards a long-term comprehensive solution.

 Rouhani press conf (Iranian Presidency)_460
Iran's President Rouhani announced the agreement at a televised press conference
(Image: Iranian Presidency)

The agreement was reached after the foreign ministers of Iran plus China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA (the P5+1) met in Geneva along with EU high representative Catherine Ashton. The initial steps of the action plan cover a term of six months, renewable by mutual consent. For that period, Iran undertakes not to enrich uranium to over 5% U-235, nor to make "any further advances" of activities at its Natanz and Fordow enrichment plants or the Arak heavy water reactor. It also undertakes to dilute half of its "working stock" of 20%-enriched uranium to no more than 5%, with the remainder retained for fabrication of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). Enhanced monitoring activities will include wider access for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and provision of information to the IAEA.

In return, the P5+1 countries have undertaken to lift various US and EU sanctions on sectors including petrochemical exports, gold and precious metals and promised that no new nuclear-related sanctions will be imposed by either the UN Security Council or the EU over the six-month period covered by the first step. The US will also "refrain" from imposing new sanctions. The deal will also see the repatriation of some of Iran's overseas oil sale assets and measures to facilitate "humanitarian trade" for Iran's domestic needs using oil revenues currently held in other countries.

According to the action plan, the parties aim to conclude negotiating and begin implementing a long-term "comprehensive solution" within a year of the adoption of the Geneva agreement. The comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with "practical limits and transparency measures" to ensure that Iran's nuclear program remains peaceful. "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons," the action plan states.

In a joint statement, Ashton and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said work would begin "shortly" to implement the first step, while promising that talks would begin soon on the comprehensive solution. This would ultimately lead to the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, and the country's nuclear program treated in the same way as any other non-nuclear weapon state that is party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

Iran's continuation of its uranium enrichment program in defiance of orders by the UN Security Council has led to the imposition of economic sanctions against the country. Iran has continued to maintain that its enrichment activities are peaceful. Full IAEA non-proliferation safeguards are already in place at Iran's civil nuclear power plant, Bushehr; however access by IAEA inspectors at other declared sites including the Natanz enrichment site has often been problematic.

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano issued a statement welcoming the Geneva agreement, which he described as important step forward following the 11 November agreement between the Agency and Iran on increased transparency. "With the agreement of the IAEA's Board of Governors, the Agency will be ready to fulfil its role in verifying the implementation of nuclear related measures," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News