TEHRAN (FNA)- European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday she hopes a new round of negotiations with Iran on a definitive settlement to a decade-old nuclear standoff could start within a few weeks.
“Depending on how things work out today, I hope that we will start talks within the next few weeks,” she told reporters as she arrived for an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Reuters reported.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), gave a green light Monday afternoon to the full implementation of an interim deal with Iran, struck in November, after Iran suspended its 20-percent uranium enrichment operations in a voluntary move and in the line the Geneva deal with the world powers.
On Monday, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Tehran is set to start the voluntarily suspension of its 20-percent uranium enrichment activities in its Fordo and Natanz nuclear sites at around midday as part of the Geneva agreement.
“The voluntary suspension of the 20-percent (uranium) enrichment takes place in two cascades in Natanz and four cascades in Fordo,” Salehi said in a televised program in the early hours of Monday, adding that the suspension includes disconnection of the centrifuge cascades.
Each cascade is comprised of 164 centrifuge machines. To enrich uranium, several cascades should be linked to each other, each receiving the uranium enriched to a certain level in previous cascades and enriching it to a higher grade.
Salehi pointed to the nuclear activities at Arak Heavy Water Reactor, and said, “According to the Geneva agreement, the fuel of this reactor should not be transferred to the facility and the area around the reactor. (IAEA) Inspectors have visited the reservoirs in the last two days and witnessed that there is no heavy water (stockpile) in the reactor and its reservoirs; they have also checked to see that no fuel has been transferred to the reactor.”
Earlier in the day, AEOI Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi announced that three separate IAEA teams of inspectors were scheduled to visit Iran’s nuclear sites in Arak, Fordo and Natanz to inspect the start of the voluntary suspension of Iran’s 20-percent enrichment activities today.
Kamalvandi announced that suspension of Iran’s 20-percent enrichment operation was due to start earlier today, but it was delayed due to the technical debates between the IAEA inspectors and Iran’s nuclear experts.
Later in the day, the IAEA informed its members that Tehran has suspended its 20-percent uranium enrichment.
Kamalvandi also said that based on the undertakings mentioned in the Geneva deal, the six powers should now begin to ease their sanctions on Tehran.
On November 24, Iran and the world powers sealed a six-month Joint Plan of Action to lay the groundwork for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear energy program. In exchange for Tehran’s confidence-building bid to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, the Sextet of world powers agreed to lift some of the existing sanctions against Tehran and continue talks with the country to settle all problems between the two sides.Then after several rounds of experts talks on how to enforce the agreement, Iran and the six major world powers finalized an agreement on ways to implement the deal.
On Saturday, Kamalvandi said that IAEA Director for Safeguard Agreements Massimo Aparo and his colleagues had arrived in the Iranian capital to report on the implementation of the first step of the Geneva deal.
“The delegation of the agency’s inspectors, headed by Aparo, will report start of Iran’s voluntary measures to the agency on January 20, thus the first step in implementing the Geneva Joint Plan of Action officially begins,” the Iranian official said.
Last week, a source form the EU said that the Union would begin lifting sanctions against Iran on Monday, January 20, the minute it receives the word that Tehran has begun implementing the nuclear deal.
The EU foreign ministers will announce the move in Brussels as soon as inspectors from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, confirm that the agreement started to be carried out.
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