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EU Lifts Iran Sanctions After Assurances On Nuclear Program

Photo caption:

Photo by Kazem Ghane

An IAEA team checks the enrichment process inside the uranium enrichment plant Natanz in central Iran on Monday.

The European Union says it's lifting some sanctions against Iran after reports from international inspectors that Tehran has suspended high-level enrichment of uranium under an interim agreement to scale back its nuclear program.

The Associated Press reports:

"The deal that went into effect Monday was worked out in talks brokered by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The payoff to Iran should be an influx of billions of dollars over the next six months into the Islamic republic's shaky economy."

"British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who voted with other EU foreign ministers in Brussels to suspend some of the sanctions for six months, called the deal "an important milestone."

The White House, meanwhile, said the U.S. and its allies would "continue our aggressive enforcement" of sanction measures despite the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The six-month deal was reached earlier this month and "halts the most worrisome nuclear work and rolls back some of Iran's sophisticated advances, but it stops far short of ensuring that the country can never develop a weapon if it chooses to do so," according to The Washington Post.

The New York Times says:

"Nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' watchdog group, who will monitor the Iranian elements of the agreement, arrived in Tehran over the weekend, local news media reported."

"Iranian leaders, including some hard-liners, have welcomed the deal, which allows the nation to freely export petrochemical products, have sanctions lifted on gold and precious metals, and create a special banking channel to facilitate payments for goods like food and medicine. These products were not affected by sanctions in the past but could not be paid for because of restrictions on all international financial transactions with Iran."

As NPR's Peter Kenyon reports on Morning Edition, the interim agreement between Iran and the six world powers known "P5+1" addresses the enrichment of uranium, which could be used to produce a bomb, but leaves aside the heavy-water reactor being built at Arak, which could produce plutonium for an ever-deadlier hydrogen bomb:

Peter says: "Experts say there are ways to ensure that Iran doesn't create plutonium, useful for a nuclear weapon, from the reactor's spent fuel. But they would entail concessions that deeply disturb hardliners on both sides."

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