Iran to get USD 4.2 billion of blocked funds in phases

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Hassan Rouhani Photo: http://president.ir/en/
Hassan Rouhani Photo: http://president.ir/en/

Washington, Jan 13 (PTI): Iran will get USD 4.2 billion of its blocked funds in phases under a six-month landmark nuclear deal, as President Barack Obama cautioned that any congressional legislation that slaps fresh sanctions on Tehran will only risk derailing the peace efforts.

“The USD 4.2 billion in restricted Iranian assets that Iran will gain access to as part of the agreement will be released in regular installments throughout the six months. The final installment will not be available to Iran until the very last day,” Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday. A top official, however, said Iran will get the first installment of USD 550 million around first week in February.

Iran and the P5+1 group – the US, UK, Russia, China, and France plus Germany – sealed a six-month Joint Plan of Action in November last year. Under the plan, Iran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear programme for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions. Iran announced that it along with six world powers have agreed on how to implement the nuclear deal they struck in November with the terms starting from January 20.

“I have no illusions about how hard it will be to achieve this objective, but for the sake of our national security and the peace and security of the world, now is the time to give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” Obama said in a statement.

“Today’s agreement to implement the Joint Plan of Action announced in November marks the first time in a decade that the Islamic Republic of Iran has agreed to specific actions that halt progress on its nuclear programme and roll back key parts of the programme,” he said. Beginning January 20, Iran will for the first time start eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium and dismantling some of the infrastructure that makes such enrichment possible, the US President said.

“I welcome this important step forward, and we will now focus on the critical work of pursuing a comprehensive resolution that addresses our concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme,” he said. However, some congressional lawmakers who are skeptical over the deal have proposed fresh sanctions against Iran. Obama, however, cautioned them “imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts to resolve this issue peacefully.”

“We will continue to vigorously enforce the broader sanctions regime, and if Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will move to increase our sanctions,” he said.

Western countries have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. But Iran has denied the charges.

“We now have an obligation to give our diplomats and experts every chance to succeed in these difficult negotiations,” Kerry said, adding it is not the right time for the Congress to impose any additional sanctions on Iran.

“We are clear-eyed about the even greater challenges we all face in negotiating a comprehensive agreement. These negotiations will be very difficult, but they represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably,” he noted.

“As this agreement takes effect, we will be extraordinarily vigilant in our verification and monitoring of Iran’s actions, an effort that will be led by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said.

Noting that while implementation is an important step, he said the next phase poses a far greater challenge: negotiating a comprehensive agreement that resolves outstanding concerns about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Reiterating that the US would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, Kerry said the Obama Administration has been clear that diplomacy is its preferred path because other options carry much greater costs and risks and are less likely to provide a lasting solution.

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