US to take steps towards lifting Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON • United States President Barack Obama yesterday ordered the US government to take steps towards lifting sanctions on Iran, in line with the nuclear deal struck between world powers and Teheran in July.

Mr Obama's directive comes on the milestone "Adoption Day" - 90 days after the United Nations Security Council endorsed the Iran accord - known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

"I hereby direct you to take all appropriate additional measures to ensure the prompt and effective implementation of the US commitments set forth in the JCPOA, in accordance with US law," Mr Obama said in a memorandum.

The adoption of the deal yesterday means all sides will have to begin implementing the pledges they made three months ago.

Iran will have to destroy 95 per cent of its enriched-uranium stockpile and retrofit a reactor, while the US and Europe will prepare to lift sanctions, but only after the Iranian measures are in place.

"This is a landmark day for a historic deal," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said yesterday in a statement. "This will ensure that a nuclear weapon remains beyond Iran's reach, thus creating a safer region while opening opportunities for Iran to re-engage with the international community."

More than two years of negotiations culminated in an agreement that was signed on July 14 in Vienna, defying fierce opposition from US Republicans and hardliners in Iran's Parliament. The deal has been described as a victory of diplomacy over the potential use of force.

"You cannot produce trust in the market," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told diplomats on Saturday in Teheran. "The glaring lack of confidence on both sides forced us to elaborate meticulous mechanisms," he said.

But the pact has not defused tensions between Iran and the West. From missile tests to support for Syria's regime, Iran is exerting its power in the region, angering US allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Sanctions against Iran will likely be lifted within the first three months of next year, after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that Teheran has curtailed its nuclear work, diplomats said.

The lifting of sanctions is expected to fuel economic growth, as Iran resumes oil exports and ends the isolation of its banks.

Iran has already said it will offer about 50 energy projects to investors, and plans to boost oil output by about 2 million barrels a day.

And investors are biting. Japan plans to triple its imports of Iranian crude once sanctions are lifted, the Iranian Oil Ministry's Shana news agency said on Saturday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'US to take steps towards lifting Iran sanctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe