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EU Seen Easing Iran Sanctions Soon

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius react in Geneva to a landmark nuclear deal in Geneva.
France's foreign minister says the European Union would likely lift some sanctions on Tehran by the end of the year as part of a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

Laurent Fabius said on November 25 that EU foreign ministers would meet in "a few weeks" to discuss partially lifting some sanctions and that the move would likely take place "in December."

In Brussels, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Michael Mann, told journalists the move to ease EU sanctions could take place either in December or January.

"That would happen as soon as it is ready, of course. It is important that both sides of the bargain are implementing this agreement. So we would coordinate timing wise also with the Iranian side," he said. "I cannot say at this point exactly when the initial decisions on this would happen. It could be in December. It could be in January. It depends on how long the legislative process takes."

Following four days of negotiations in Geneva, Iran agreed on November 24 to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for limited sanctions relief. The interim deal prompted a fall in oil prices on markets on November 25.

Under the deal, Iran would be allowed to continue to enrich uranium, but only to a low-grade level of 5 percent. Its current stockpile of near 20-percent-enriched uranium would have to be eliminated or diluted, and new low-grade material could not exceed current stockpile levels.

Tehran also agreed to stop installing new centrifuges to enrich uranium and to end work on thousands of others that are not yet functioning. Furthermore, Iran agreed to stop construction activity at its Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor, which could be used to produce plutonium.

In return, there would be no new nuclear-related sanctions for six months if Iran sticks by the accord. Tehran will also receive sanctions relief worth about $7 billion on sectors including petrochemicals and precious metals.

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The six world powers involved in the negotiations -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- hailed the agreement as a key first step that wards off the threat of military escalation.

But Fabius called the agreement "only a first step," saying: "Nothing is resolved until everything is resolved."

Fabius said Israel, which blasted the deal as a "historic mistake," was not likely to launch any preventative strikes on arch-foe Iran, "because no one would understand" such a move "at this stage."

World powers suspect Iran’s uranium-enrichment program is aimed at developing an atomic bomb – an allegation Tehran denies.

Israel has said a nuclear Iran would be an existential threat to the country and has said it would take any necessary measures -- including military strikes -- to prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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