BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union (EU) suspended a range of sanctions against Iran on Monday after Teheran began implementing a deal to curb its nuclear programme, the EU said.
"As part of the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action agreed by Iran and the E3/EU+3, which enters into force today, the Council today suspended certain EU restrictive measures against Iran for a period of six months," a statement said.
This six-month period "may be prolonged by mutual consent", it noted.
The suspension was agreed by foreign ministers meeting in Brussels for regular monthly talks after they received word from the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, that Teheran had stuck to its side of a November deal to cut back its nuclear programme.
The new measures notably include the suspension of a 2012 ban on insuring and transporting Iranian crude oil that contributed to a more than 50 per cent drop in Teheran's oil exports.
European insurers up until then had accounted for 90 per cent of coverage for deliveries of Iranian oil anywhere in the world.
The EU also will suspend bans on trade in gold, precious metals and petrochemical products while increasing a ceiling on financial transfers not related to remaining sanctions.
Like the United States, the EU has promised to impose no new sanctions in the next six months, the first stage in efforts to find a lasting solution over fears that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb.
Iran has all along insisted its nuclear programme is peaceful but failed to prove it to sceptical Western states which have applied ever tighter sanctions seriously impacting its economy.
The core of these sanctions remain in place, but the accord provides for the ultimate removal if all the commitments on opening up its nuclear programme are met.
The British Foreign Secretary said Monday's implementation of the first step in the accord "is an important milestone" and shows the EU is fulfilling its part of the bargain.
At the same time, "it is important that other sanctions are maintained and the pressure is maintained for a comprehensive and final settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue", Mr William Hague said.
The EU's sanctions list targets some 482 entities, including the central bank, believed to support Iran's nuclear programme.
Others have been imposed on 87 individuals over human rights cases and range from visa bans to asset freezes.