Iran has started taking action to comply with the terms of an extended agreement with the major powers over its nuclear program, according to a UN nuclear agency report obtained by Reuters.
The findings in a monthly update by the International Atomic Energy Agency may be seen as positive by the West ahead of the expected resumption next month of negotiations on ending the decade-old nuclear dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The IAEA document made clear that Iran is continuing to meet its commitments under the interim accord that it reached with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia late last year and that took effect in January.
In addition, as agreed when the deal was extended by four months in July, it has begun using some of its higher-grade enriched uranium to produce fuel.
The IAEA is tasked with checking that Iran is living up to its part of the agreement, which was designed to buy time for talks on a comprehensive settlement of the dispute.
Iran denies Western allegations that it has been working to develop a capability to make nuclear bombs, saying it is refining uranium to fuel a planned network of nuclear power plants.
After years of escalating tension between Iran and the West, the election in mid-2013 of Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist, as Iranian president on a platform of improving Tehran’s international relations created new room for diplomacy that ultimately led to last year’s breakthrough nuclear deal.
The initial aim was for Iran and the six powers to reach a long-term agreement by a self-imposed July 20 deadline.
But the talks and the interim deal were extended until Nov. 24 in view of persistently wide differences over the future scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
Under the preliminary accord, Iran halted its most contested nuclear work - enrichment of uranium to a higher fissile concentration of 20 percent - in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions. It also converted its stockpile of the material into oxide from gas.
Over the four months of the deal’s extension, Iran is to receive $2.8 billion in previously frozen oil revenue held in banks abroad, in addition to the $4.2 billion it got during the January-July period.
In exchange, it agreed to take some additional nuclear steps, including making nuclear fuel for a research reactor and diluting a large amount of low-enriched uranium.
Wednesday’s IAEA report said Iran over the last month had used about 3.5 kg of its 20 percent uranium in oxide form for manufacturing fuel. It also told the IAEA it would dilute more than four tons of uranium gas enriched to about two percent.
A senior U.S. official last month described Iran’s new commitments under the extended deal as a “big step forward.”
The Vienna-based IAEA has inspectors on the ground in Iran who are monitoring its enrichment sites on a daily basis.
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