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EU suspends some sanctions as Iran halts high-level uranium enrichment

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Iran halted its 20 per cent uranium enrichment, which is just steps away from bomb-making materials, reported state TV. (Mehr News Agency/AP)Iran halted its 20 per cent uranium enrichment, which is just steps away from bomb-making materials, reported state TV. (Mehr News Agency/AP)The European Union has agreed to suspend some economic sanctions against Iran as part of a ground-breaking nuclear agreement. Under the deal, Tehran has scaled back its nuclear work and ceased enriching uranium above five percent, euronews reports.

It will continue to produce lower-level uranium.

Catherine Ashton, European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who brokered the deal in talks last November, explained:

“I am pleased to say that Iran has implemented the nuclear-related measures set out in the agreement, and we have adopted the necessary legislation to suspend certain sanctions for a period of six months,” she said. “Over the coming six months, proper implementation of the measures will be crucial,” continued Ashton.

However, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has struck a negative note. He said he is “very pessimistic” on the prospects for peace:

“I’m quite optimistic in the development of relations with Iran, but I do not believe anything. To move forward we’ll need to verify the action. I hope that in the final agreement we will have very clear internationally verifiable commitments from Iran,” said Reynders.

Measures targeting petrochemical products, gold and other precious metals, the auto industry, passenger plane parts and services will be lifted immediately.

The IAEA confirmed that higher-level uranium enrichment in the Natanz facility in central Iran had been stopped.

Meanwhile, back in Tehran, some residents described the move as a key step toward easing more of the sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.

“The market is somehow resisting. Everybody is waiting to see a final result. However, the rial (Iranian currency) has gained 500 against the US dollar and gold coins are now 200,000 rials cheaper. I hope, and I’m sure, that this positive trend will continue,” said Ashkan Ordookhani, owner of a bureau de change in Tehran.

“I am happy that our negotiators reached such a good agreement. … I believe there will be a positive impact on our lives and the economy,” said Nasseri, a resident of Tehran.

The sanctions have severely damaged Iran’s oil-dependent economy. The suspending some of the measures by the EU will certainly provide relief to many other ordinary Iranians.

Audrey Tilve, euronews correspondent in Brussels reported: “With the partial lifting of these sanctions the countdown has begins and the negotiators from now six months to seal a definitive agreement with Iran.”

January 21 2014, 12:15

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