The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that Iran is complying with an interim international deal reached last year which called for the reduction of its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
The IAEA said that as of July 20, Iran had reduced half of its 20 percent enriched uranium stockpiles to 5 percent, a level that can be used for nuclear reactors, but not weapons production. Although 90 percent enrichment is needed to produce a nuclear weapon, once production reaches 20 percent, it can be converted quickly to arm nuclear weapons.
The news came on the same day that a self-imposed deadline for a nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers expired. The six powers — the United States, China, France, Russia, Germany and Britain — are calling on Iran to reduce their enrichment of uranium to levels that would prevent the development of a nuclear bomb in exchange for relief from painful sanctions. The sanctions, aimed at the economy of a nation that primarily relies on oil exports, have contributed to high inflation and frozen billions of dollars of offshore money.
The IAEA's verification of Iranian cooperation keeps hope for an eventual deal alive as the parties agreed to extend the deadline for a comprehensive agreement another four months until November 24. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry explained in a statement:
Iran has complied with its obligations to neutralize its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium; cap its stockpile of 5 percent enriched uranium; not install advanced centrifuges; not install or test new components at its Arak reactor; and submit to far more frequent inspections of its facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has regularly verified that Iran has lived up to these commitments."
A new set of negotiations between Washington and Tehran began last year when Hassan Rouhani, largely viewed by the west as more moderate and pragmatic than his predecessors, succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the new Iranian president.
"Less than a year ago, President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani spoke for the first time to try to usher in a new diplomatic moment," Kerry said. "Since that time, we’ve been intensely engaged in a constant and comprehensive effort – the best chance we’ve ever had to resolve this issue peacefully."
In return for compliance with the provisions of the agreement, Iran will continue gaining access to the billions of dollars in cash it has frozen abroad, including the last installment of $550 million out of the $4.2 billion stipulated in the January 20 Geneva agreement, as well as an additional $2.8 billion over the next four months.