Iran and six world powers have agreed on how to implement an interim nuclear agreement. The deal, which takes effect next week, eases some financial sanctions in exchange for Iran rolling back parts of its nuclear program, ahead of talks on a more comprehensive agreement.
Under this interim accord, Iran agrees to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent, which is the grade commonly used to power nuclear reactors. That's a big drop from Iran's current production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which is only a technical step away from weapons-grade use.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry helped negotiate this accord in November. He told reporters in the French capital Sunday that getting this joint plan of action under way is an important first step.
"As of that day, January 20, for the first time in almost a decade, Iran's nuclear program will not be able to advance. In fact, parts of it will be rolled back while we start negotiating a comprehensive agreement to address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program," said Kerry.
Western powers suspect Iran has been trying to develop the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is aimed purely at generating electricity and fueling civilian atomic research.
Kerry stressed the United States and its allies will work closely with U.N. nuclear inspectors to ensure that the terms of this deal are met.
"As this agreement takes effect, we will be extraordinarily vigilant in our verification and monitoring of Iran's actions," said Kerry.
He added the international community is clear-eyed about the greater challenges of a more comprehensive agreement restricting Iran's nuclear program.
"We are very clear about what will be required in order to be able to guarantee to the international community that this is a peaceful program. The negotiations will be very difficult, but they are the best chance that we have to be able to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully and durably," said Kerry.
In a written statement, President Barack Obama said the United States and other nations will begin to give Iran "modest relief" on economic sanctions, as long as Tehran lives up to its end of the agreement.
Obama said he will veto any new sanctions legislation passed by the U.S. Congress during talks on a long-term deal with Iran, but he said Washington will be ready to increase its sanctions if Iran fails to abide by the agreement.