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Iran sanctions: To be lifted or suspended?
April 5, 2015, 4:23 pm

Zarif immediately criticized a US 'fact sheet' which appeared to indicate sanctions would not be lifted immediately after a final deal is signed in June [Xinhua]

Zarif immediately criticized a US ‘fact sheet’ which appeared to indicate sanctions would not be lifted immediately after a final deal is signed in June [Xinhua]

Less than three days after Iran and the US declared they had reached a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of punitive economic sanctions, differences around the exact wording of the agreement have started to emerge.

Despite missing a March 31 deadline to reach an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Javad worked hurriedly toward a tentative deal.

The tentative text states that Iran would be allowed to keep some of its nuclear research, limiting the number of centrifuges (needed to produce fissile material for an atomic bomb) to about 1,000.

However, the centrifuges would contain no fissile material.

Iran would also have to submit to very intrusive inspections by weapons experts in the months ahead.

But the greatest point of contention – which has already produced a series of contradictory statements in Tehran and Washington – is how quickly sanctions will be removed.

In the past few months, this had been one of the greatest challenges to an agreement.

On Saturday, Zarif told Iranian media that UN sanctions would be lifted immediately following the signing of an expected final agreement on June 30.

He openly criticized a US “fact sheet” which used a different terminology to describe Iran’s greatest demand – sanctions would be suspended and quickly reenacted if it fails to meet its obligations under the agreement.

Appearing defensive on Iranian TV, Zarif said that if the US failed to live up to the agreement to lift sanctions, Iran retained the right to return to full nuclear activity – including uranium enrichment.

Under the current tentative agreement, Iran’s uranium enrichment program is significantly restricted; it can carry out such activities at only one of its nuclear facilities.

But over the weekend, French negotiators included in the P5+1 group said that Iran would be allowed to increase its enrichment after a decade of compliance.

Although the White House has called the tentative agreement reached in Switzerland “a critical milestone” it nevertheless appeared adamant that sanctions will be rolled back in phases pending verification that Iran is in compliance – a system that could last a decade.

The bickering over terminology, and the differences it symbolizes, spells a difficult path ahead for both Iran and the US before a final agreement in June.

In the meantime, both Kerry and Zarif will have to spend the next few weeks convincing domestic critics that the tentative deal in Switzerland earlier this week will lead to a final agreement that safeguards the national security needs of both countries.

Further reading: Iran, US race to bridge gap on nuclear deal

The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies

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