Iran and six world powers on Thursday announced they have agreed to a framework for a deal to restrict Iran's controversial nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 -- members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany -- will return to the negotiating table to hammer out specifics of the final, comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline.
The U.S. and Iran were at odds about how much to disclose of the preliminary agreement, The Associated Press reported. The U.S. government is under pressure to present details in order to fend off congressional critics, who want to impose more sanctions on Iran. Tehran preferred a vague statement.
Below are some of the main details of the agreement listed in a document released by the U.S. government. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the U.S. for releasing the document on Thursday, characterizing it as "spin."
Lifting international sanctions was one of Iran’s major goals in the nuclear talks, and Iran’s Zarif told reporters Thursday that all sanctions would be terminated once the deal is implemented.
The U.S. statement said American and European Union sanctions on Iran will be rolled back, but gradually, after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that Iran has complied with each step of the deal. “If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place,” the U.S. statement said. It noted that U.S. sanctions related to terrorism, human rights abuses and ballistic missiles will not be lifted.
U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran also will be lifted as the deal progresses. A new U.N. Security Council resolution will endorse the agreement and aid its full implementation.
Iran agreed under the framework to significantly limit its uranium enrichment capacities.
Tehran will reduce the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges it has installed from 19,000 to 6,104, and it will only operate 5,060 of these.
For 15 years, Iran will not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent, and will reduce its current stockpile of uranium at this level from 10,000 kg to 300 kg. The U.S. document did not specify how Iran will remove the excess stockpile, which had been a point of contention in the talks.
Zarif heralded the deal for keeping Iran’s nuclear facilities open, but most will be converted to non-enrichment purposes.
Iran will keep only one site for nuclear enrichment, Natanz, and agreed not to build any new such facilities for 15 years.
Iran’s fortified Fordo site will be converted into a nuclear research center, and will not house any fissile material. The facility, built underground and kept secret until 2009, raised concerns that it would shelter Iran’s nuclear program from potential military action.
Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak will be rebuilt so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium, and Iran won’t build any more such facilities for 15 years.
The deal would reduce Iran’s breakout capacity -- the time it would take to produce the uranium necessary for a nuclear weapon -- from several months to a year, for the next 10 years.
The U.S. argues that this extension provides ample time to nix Iran’s weapons development if the deal collapses. Israel has argued that a buffer of a year is not enough.
The White House is also likely to face domestic pushback on the 10-year window, The New York Times reports.
Clearly one area where the Obama administration will run into criticism in Congress and elsewhere is the duration of the agreement. Iran faces sharp limits for the first 10 years, and during that time the United States would be able to say that the country remains a year away from being able to produce one weapon’s worth of fuel -- Mr. Obama’s objective.
But it cannot claim that in years 10 to 15, when Iran would be permitted to gradually increase production. And after Year 15 the agreement largely expires -- meaning that Iran would be able to produce as much material as it wishes, like Japan or Brazil.
The framework mandates a thorough inspection program that would last for 25 years after the deal is signed, but does not elaborate on monitoring mechanisms that will be in place. The deal requires Iran to provide the IAEA with access to all of its nuclear facilities.
"If Iran cheats, the world will know it," President Barack Obama said after the deal was announced.
"The fine detail of any deal will be very important, in particular specifics of oversight measures and mechanisms for handling U.N. Security Council resolutions," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement.
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