Iran: $500 million in funds released
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani listens after his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 23, 2014. [AFP]
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Iran has received the first $500 million portion of unfrozen funds as the beginning phases of the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers sets into motion.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told ISNA news agency Saturday that the transfer of funds was finalized according to the agreement.
"The first tranche of $500 million was deposited in a Swiss bank account, and everything was done in accordance with the agreement," Araqchi said.
The first of six installments of sanctions relief, prior to the funds transfer described by the White House as “restricted,” were not accessible by Iran’s government until Feb. 1. Each installment interval is $450- 550 million. Iran will receive a final bulk installment of $4.2 billion on the last day of the six-month period.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday discussed a definitive settlement of a dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, with Kerry telling him existing U.S. sanctions stood.
“Secretary Kerry reiterated the importance of both sides negotiating in good faith and Iran abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action. He also made clear that the United States will continue to enforce existing sanctions,” a U.S. State Department official said, after the two had met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, in comments carried by Reuters.
The Geneva agreement struck on Nov. 24 with six countries requires Iran to begin diluting its stockpile of uranium already enriched to nearly 20% – considered the hardest part of the enrichment process, unnecessary for purposes of civilian power but required for the construction of a warhead.
The November agreement allows Iran to engage in research and development, but bars it from installing new centrifuges.
But as Iran received first tranche of unfrozen funds, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday that his country was not prepared to give up research on centrifuges used to purify uranium as part of a final deal to address international concerns over its nuclear activities.
“We are going to discuss various aspects of the nuclear program and I do not think technology and science has anything to do with proliferation,” he said in an interview with Reuters and The International Media Associates, a television production company.
Diplomats now say, however, that Iran has told the six countries it wants to press ahead with the development of even more advanced centrifuges than the IR-2m.
Western diplomats say they are uncomfortable with the idea of Iran pressing ahead with the development of more advanced centrifuges. But Iran says centrifuge research is crucial.
Asked his expectations for the Feb. 18 talks and how long he thought it would take to reach a final agreement, Zarif said: “It’s just the beginning of the negotiations for a final agreement. It is the first step of the final step and I expect it to take some time.
“Of course, in our view it is not that difficult to reach an agreement provided there is good faith and the willingness on the part of all parties to try to examine various options to address the common objective of the Iranian nuclear program being exclusively used for peaceful purposes,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
“We are ready because we believe it is in our interests and we have no other intention. So theoretically it shouldn’t be that difficult. The detail may be a bit more difficult to achieve, so we will see,” said Zarif, speaking in English.
Zarif told Reuters that the six powers had “pretty much” kept their side of the bargain in suspending some sanctions, but it was too early to see the results on Iranian trade.
“The psychological impact is there but the practical implications on petrochemicals and other trade is yet to be seen,” he said.
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