Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers his speech in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem yesterday.
WASHINGTON: The United States has followed through on promised sanctions relief for Iran covering oil exports, trade in precious metals, and automotive services as part of a nuclear agreement that began taking effect yesterday, US officials said.
In exchange for steps that Tehran took to halt its most sensitive nuclear activity, the White House said the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union “will today follow through on our commitment to begin to provide the modest relief agreed to with Iran.”
“At the same time, we will continue our aggressive enforcement of the sanctions measures that will remain in place throughout this six-month period,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday said Ottowa’s sanctions on Iran would remain “fully in place” as an interim nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran took effect.
“We truly hope that it is possible to walk the Iranian government back from taking the irreversible step of manufacturing nuclear weapons,” Harper said in an address to the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem.
“But for now, Canada’s own sanctions will remain fully in place.
“Should our hopes not be realised, should the present agreement prove ephemeral, Canada will be a strong voice in the world for renewed sanctions,” he added.
Iran yesterday halted production of 20 percent enriched uranium, marking the entry into force of an interim deal with world powers on its disputed nuclear programme.
The US move is the controversial culmination of a promise that President Barack Obama made as a presidential candidate to engage with US adversaries, including Tehran. It has tested ties with top ally Israel and prompted both fellow Democrats and opposition Republicans in Congress to pursue legislation that would increase sanctions against the longtime US foe. Obama has vowed to veto such action.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Iran deal would pave the way for negotiations on a long-term deal to contain Iran’s nuclear programme. Those negotiations, she said, “will be even more complex, and we go into it clear-eyed about the difficulties ahead.”
Because Iran had fulfilled its initial nuclear commitments under the deal, the administration had taken “the necessary steps to pause efforts to further reduce Iranian crude oil exports,” the US Treasury Department said.
This will allow the six current customers of Iranian oil to maintain their purchases at current reduced levels for the six-month duration of an interim nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, it said.
A US official said Iran was currently exporting about 60 percent less oil than it was two years ago and would be held to those reduced levels.
The official said Washington would allow Iran to access, in installments, $4.2bn of oil revenues frozen overseas in a set schedule across the six-month period. The last installment would be accessible on the final day of the period, he said.
The United States also took steps to suspend sanctions on non-US people engaged in transactions related to Iran’s petrochemical exports, as well as certain trade in gold and precious metals with Iran and provision of goods and services to Iran’s automotive sector.
“This temporary relief will not fix the Iranian economy. It will not come close,” a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on a conference call. The official noted that inflation in the country remained near 40 percent - one of the highest in the world - and its economy was expected to contract further.
“Iran is not and will not be open for business until it reaches a comprehensive agreement with the international community that addresses all outstanding concerns,” he said.
A global interim agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear programme, which went into force yesterday, will not stop Tehran trying to develop a military atomic capability, Israel’s prime minister said.
Addressing parliament just hours after the deal took effect, Benjamin Netanyahu said the Geneva agreement did not go far enough, and urged the world to seek a complete halt to the “Iran nuclear train” in the planned permanent arrangement.
“The interim agreement which went into force today does not prevent Iran from realising its intention to develop nuclear weapons,” he said in a special session also addressed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“This objective is still before us.”
His remarks were after the UN’s atomic watchdog confirmed Tehran had halted production of 20 percent enriched uranium in line with an interim deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers in Geneva in November.